Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In this issue of Revolution newspaper: a special pullout section on BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make!
Over the next seven weeks be part of getting this to many, many others—share it with family and friends over the holiday season, mail it with a request for donations with your holiday cards, get it to all kinds of people one on one. These last seven weeks of the year are a major opportunity to raise big funds and forge a community of people working together to project Bob Avakian's works and vision into all corners of society.
In the aftermath of an election that will change nothing about the workings of this system, with millions of people suffering in a world of staggering horror... in the aftermath of a hurricane where this system's brutal nature was laid bare—with its priorities of profit, its inability to call forth the masses of people to act in their interests, and the rapid-paced climate change which cannot be dealt with or even fully approached within the confines of this system... RIGHT NOW: people need to know there is an alternative. A radically different way the world can be, and a strategy for revolution to get there concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian. Making this known and debated throughout society, radically challenging those who argue this is the best of all possible worlds, and inspiring millions—including those who suffer most under this system—with the viable vision and strategy for an emancipatory world. This is what the mass fundraising campaign BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make is all about.
As the pullout describes, the past year has seen inspiring and significant beginnings in this campaign. This needs to go much further in 2013. Introducing this to new people, pulling together the thousands who've been involved thus far, acting together as a national movement and raising funds and building community in all that we do... all this can go very far in kicking 2013 off right.
Ideas and plans for the next seven weeks:
Through all this, in different creative ways, much-needed funds can and should be raised to make a big impact with BA Everywhere...and community—and a national movement—be further forged as we work together in different ways and with people from different places, and invite many others to take part, to change the world.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The reelection of Barack Obama to a second term raises many questions.
Will he stop the American bombing from pilotless "drones" that he has ordered to be rained down on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else? Or will he continue this practice and others like it—and worse yet, will he now follow through on his threats of war against Iran for getting in the way of America's imperialist objectives in that part of the world?
Will he revoke the executive power, that he has declared, which enables him to order the assassination of anyone he deems to be a supporter of terrorism, without any chance for that person to legally defend themselves, even if they are a U.S. citizen? Or will he do as he has done in his first term: adding more people to his "kill list" (and yes, that is what they call it), and perhaps even trying to invoke more unprecedented extralegal powers?
Will he stop the persecution of people like Bradley Manning, who is accused of blowing the whistle on U.S. war crimes and ended up confined in conditions of torture as a result, and who faces life imprisonment? Will he cease the persecution of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and the prosecution of a record number of whistle-blowers in his administration? Or will he continue enforcing strict and illegal cover-ups by the most extreme means?
Will he do anything at all about the horrific system of mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth—of treating these youths as "suspects" everywhere they go, with harassment, brutality, and all too often outright murder by the police or vigilantes? Will he even point to this as a systemic problem? Or will he do as he has done in his first term, blaming the victims and at the same time stepping up the "war on drugs" (which has been the pretext and trigger mechanism for this whole genocidal policy)?
Will he stop the deportations of immigrants who have been driven here in a desperate search for work by the plunder of their economies by the U.S. and other imperialist countries? Or will he do as he did in his first term, when he set the all-time "record" by deporting over one million immigrants (and then hypocritically at the last minute granted temporary amnesty for a small minority of those who are here "illegally")?
Will he take action to stop the destruction of the environment? Or will he do as he did in his first term, encouraging and extending the production of oil and other forms of polluting energy, and going so far as to brag about all the new pipelines and drilling that he's OK'd—including some in ecologically delicate and previously untouched territory?
Will he actually DEFEND a woman's right to abortion and birth control—the right to decide if and when she will be a mother? Or will he continue to half-step and double-deal at a time when this right is under unprecedented attack on the state level, doing just enough to pacify people and string them along while making concession after concession to the anti-abortion troglodytes—as he did when his health care plan did NOT make provisions to cover abortion, or when he had his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare overrule the Food and Drug Administration on the sale of the "morning after" birth control pill to girls under 17 (and on making the pill more widely available to all women), and saying that he did so "as the father of two daughters"—thereby reinforcing the same patriarchal logic of the Republicans that the sexuality of young women must be under the control of their fathers?
Will he actually propose a bill legalizing gay marriage, or even throw his support behind the referendums that have been launched to secure those rights? Or will he continue to pay halting, finger-in-the-wind lip service to those rights, even saying that they "should be left to the states"—a position hauntingly similar to the position of Republicans and segregationist Democrats who opposed federal bills to guarantee civil rights for African-Americans during the 20th century?
Will Obama reverse the steady and often violent suffocation of dissent and protest? Or will he continue what was done in his first term, when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] which enables the president to detain people without trial or other legal due process; and when the mainly Democratic mayors of the big cities launched coordinated and repeated violent police attacks against the Occupy movement?
Will he reverse housing and finance policies that have propped up banks and mortgage companies but which have brought very little relief to the many facing foreclosure and eviction? Or will he use the election as a mandate to "reach across the aisle" to enforce vicious cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other crucial elements of what masses of people must rely on for survival?
But you already know the answers to those questions: No. The three big questions we're raising are these:
During Obama's first term, all too few people spoke out against any of the above crimes. Really ugly shit that if done by Bush would have evoked howls of outrage went by without comment when Obama did them—or, at most, a tut-tut. Yet the outrage, if anything, should have been even greater. Those who voted for Obama in hopes that he would reverse the most horrendous crimes of the past, only to see him put a new face on them, should have been in the forefront of calling this shit out. But that was all too rarely the case. Indeed, all too often people who had denounced Bush found themselves apologizing for and making excuses for Obama when he did the same things—or even worse. Some even celebrated these crimes! Bob Avakian has made the point: "If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are." (BAsics 3:12)
So Obama's reelection re-poses the question: What will you accept? And what will you become?
There are people and forces speaking out and moving against all of the crimes laid out above, some at great risk and sacrifice. But as yet this resistance is neither large enough nor vocal enough, neither militant enough nor thoroughgoing enough. People need to step forward and say NO to these outrages on a much more massive scale. If not, these horrors will get worse.
One very negative effect of the Obama presidency has been that what were seen as crimes under Bush have now become the "new normal." So you will be told that you are being naive by those who have begun identifying with power. They will say that if you tell the truth too forcefully or with too much acuity that you may make it even worse. You will be told to be quiet by those who have grown used to those crimes and no longer wish to be reminded of them—or worse, have come to favor them. The smugly ironic commentators will question your motives while they trivialize your arguments. Then, if you do follow your conscience and act, you will find yourself facing batons, arrest, surveillance and worse from the powers-that-be. That is when you must remind yourself that the alternative to resistance is not just acquiescence—it is complicity.
Up against criminality so pervasive and yet so normalized, resistance is a moral imperative. But it is more than that.
Resistance—"fighting the power"—is key to people raising their heads. As Bob Avakian has said, when people rise up in resistance "...the conditions become much more favorable for them to begin to see the world in a different way–to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings–in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people." (What Humanity Needs, RCP Publications, 2012) In that dimension, resistance is not only the refusal of evil and the demand for justice—essential and invaluable as those are—it can be a step to a whole new world.
The real truth is this: Things do NOT have to be this way. There is a radically different analysis that lays bare the real problem we face, and the real solution. There is a Constitution that concretizes the vision of a truly emancipatory society and how that would work (Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), RCP Publications, 2010)... a statement on strategy that guides how such a movement could be built, right now ("On the Strategy for Revolution," Revolution #224, February 11, 2011)... and a strategy for winning when the conditions emerge for the all-out struggle for power. ("On the Possibility of Revolution," Revolution #102, September 23, 2007) All this work has to be engaged, seriously.
In fact, we do NOT have to live in a society ruled by a class that arrogates to itself the right to exploit the entire world and to use the most destructive and murderous military force in history to enforce that exploitation. We do NOT have to live in a society that constantly reshapes its white supremacist core to find new and ever more insidious and vicious ways to oppress those whose ancestors came here in chains, those whose land was stolen, and those who have been driven here today from the oppressed nations in a desperate quest to survive. We do NOT have to live in a society that not only finds itself paralyzed in the face of ever more disastrous global climate change and even the possible destruction of the ecosystems that make human life viable, but that actually makes things worse due to the destructive demands of capital. We do NOT have to live in a society which finds new and uglier ways to demean, subordinate, and suppress women. We do NOT have to live in a society where gay people still do not possess fundamental rights and where gay youth in particular find themselves rejected, demonized, and bullied at every turn. We do NOT have to live in a society where people are trained to see everything—including themselves and their own most intimate feelings—as commodities. These practices and institutions are neither eternally ordained nor are they "in our DNA"—they arose with (or were repurposed for) and serve a specific set of economic relations (capitalism). They are kept going by a specific class: the handful of capitalist-imperialists that sit atop the world and use its state power and massive military might to keep humanity in a hammerlock.
The very elections, which we are being told give expression to "our rights," actually serve to perpetuate these power relations. The whole framework of the elections—the ways in which issues are either deemed to be important or else ruled out of order and the terms in which they are framed if they are even debated... the manner in which people are drawn in and lined up behind this or that candidate, only to find their higher aspirations and initiative increasingly channeled into something far lower and then finally turned into their opposite... the ways in which people's capacity to resist, to think critically and even to imagine something better is hemmed in and suffocated and finally perverted into either a weary and complicit cynicism or a mindless enthusiasm by the very act of involvement... and the way in which the worst crimes of the system are then given the stamp of validation and legitimacy by the very fact of people's participation in this—serves to keep this system going. And while Obama and Bush bear responsibility for what they've done, the crimes outlined in the first part of this article are most fundamentally crimes of this system.
Yes, a different world actually IS possible. That is not just rhetoric. But this new world will not just create itself. It will not somehow spring up behind the backs of the rulers of this system by creating alternate institutions, or "changing ourselves." All those can play a part, in a certain context. That context is this: the change that is really needed requires a revolution. And revolution means something very specific: the dismantling of the oppressive institutions that keep this system running. While such a revolution faces heavy odds, there IS a path that can be taken, a strategy that can be applied, a goal that can be reached.
Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
We'll close this piece with a challenge and an invitation.
Our challenge: Will you engage, seriously engage, this?
Our invitation comes from BA himself:
"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly." ("An Invitation," Revolution #265, April 8, 2012)
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Three years ago I was arrested for attempting to document a political statement opposing censorship by Sunsara Taylor at the "Ethical" Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC). What began as a brief but principled statement opposing the censorship of her long-scheduled talk and an invitation for those who wanted to hear her talk to join us at the home of a now-former member of the EHSC was rapidly transformed by powers in the ruling class into a three-year-long political and legal battle against a political prosecution and 300-day jail sentence for non-violent misdemeanors.
Leading figures within the EHSC joined forces with the police and prosecutors to press fabricated criminal charges based on false statements—statements which changed dramatically after the video I recorded of what actually transpired was turned over to the prosecutor the day before my trial. You can read their claims in the police report and watch the video for yourself at dropthecharges.net ("Gregory's Video: 300 Day Sentence for Videotaping at the Ethical Humanist Society?")
The trial was replete with "irregularities," which exposed both the political nature of these charges and the actual functions of the "justice" system as the machinery of enforcing the class dictatorship that it is part of. Then, after spending nearly two months of my 300-day sentence in Cook County Jail, I was released on bond and have been fighting these charges for the last two years. Earlier this year the Appellate Court upheld my conviction and the Illinois Supreme Court recently refused to hear my appeal.
After numerous pronouncements declaring that there is "nothing political" about this prosecution, in the first paragraphs of the Appellate Court ruling Sunsara Taylor is described as a "self-avowed" communist—a description that was not allowed by the judge in the original trial and appeared nowhere in the trial record of proceedings in open court. The courts have tried to have it both ways—refusing to allow us to raise the extremely relevant political nature of the trial, while themselves signaling the political nature of the arrest and charges. In the final move by the prosecution, when they filed a motion to have me sent immediately back to jail, they included the completely irrelevant—but highly political—information that I had once asked the court for permission to travel out of state for matters relating to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.
Many people who have heard about this case look at the severity of the reaction of the State and think, "Well, there must be something more to this story..." There absolutely is something about this case that the rulers of this system know has tremendous potential to shake this rotten and unjust system to its core—and that is not someone standing silently holding an iPhone attempting to record a political statement, although preventing Sunsara from speaking and her statement from being documented was what precipitated this case.
More and more people of all different backgrounds are becoming aware of, and beginning to stand up in opposing, the historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration in the United States, which proclaims itself the "greatest and freest country in the world" without the least sense of irony. The sheer number of people subjected to the dehumanizing and degrading violence of the State through its injustice system is difficult to wrap your mind around. Nearly 2.4 million men, women and children are in prison at any moment. As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has pointed out, more Black folks are in prison or under the control of the "justice" system than there were slaves just before the Civil War. There are five times the number of Black men incarcerated in the U.S. than in apartheid South Africa, where a white supremacist colonial regime subjugated the indigenous Black population for decades and is universally considered one of the most racist regimes in the history of the world. Hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth in New York City alone are fucked with by the police every year under "stop-and-frisk." Whole families—including young children—who come here from around the world seeking a better future due to the depredations of U.S. imperialism on their home countries are criminalized and locked up in immigration prisons.
And tens of thousands of prisoners every day are held in extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in supermax and segregation units—conditions that amount to torture. As Carl Dix, one of the comrades standing on the front lines of the struggle against the faultline contradiction of mass incarceration and currently facing trial with other Stop-and-Frisk Freedom Fighters, has pointed out, "All this comes down to a slow genocide which could easily accelerate." People who want to get deeper into this should check out "'Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide' Strikes a Visceral Nerve," Revolution #262, March 11, 2012, and "Ask a Communist: There Are 2.4 Million People in Prison in the U.S.—Why? What Do We DO About It? And How Does the Notion of a 'Prison-Industrial Complex' Get This Wrong?," Revolution #259, February 12, 2012.
From deep within the belly of this monstrous imperialist beast, from the bowels of the torture units and the concrete and steel prison-tombs springing up across the prairies and plains of this country, brothers and sisters that this system has cast off as worthless are beginning to understand the historical and social forces that led them to the point of being locked within these hellholes, and beginning to see the pathway to a radically different future for all humanity. Prison cells designed to destroy human beings are being transformed into universities of revolution, where the tremendous potential of the wretched of the earth is beginning to be unleashed, and prisoners are one of the powerful sections of people beginning to transform themselves into emancipators of humanity.
That potential, and that reality, is the core of what is driving forward my political prosecution and their demands to put me back in jail. Because I am one of those wretched of the earth that this system had no future for. I got involved in a street organization to survive on the streets as a teenager after my family lost our home, and I was serving a long sentence in an adult maximum security prison by the time I was 17 years old. I began to question what brought me and everyone else locked down in those hellholes to be there. And as conditions became increasingly repressive and more inhumane, I was placed into an indeterminate period of segregation—solitary confinement—where I was confronted with surviving for years in a living tomb until my release.
It was there, in those many years of torture that I spent in total isolation from human contact surrounded by crushing State violence on a daily basis, that I regained my humanity through the course of resisting those conditions and beginning to study and understand the world. Among other things I was studying, I began to receive revolutionary literature from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, including a donated subscription to Revolution newspaper. And Revolution presented to me a real analysis of the historical development and functioning of this monstrous capitalist system, a serious strategy for organizing and making a revolution to sweep this system away, and a viable framework in Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism for actually running society after a revolution: to increasingly break down the divisions of class society as people struggle together to create a whole different way of life in which human beings, individually and above all in their mutual interaction, in all parts of the world, can throw off the chains of tradition, rise to their full height and thrive in ways never before experienced or even fully imagined—a communist world.
My thinking and understanding of course did not change overnight. Both before and after my release from prison, I struggled with many questions—from individuality and leadership to the oppression of women—and comrades struggled with me—in making the radical ruptures to becoming a communist. But through the course of that struggle and being involved in many different realms of revolutionary work in building the movement for revolution, I've dedicated my life to serving the people and being an emancipator of humanity.
From oppressed communities under the gun of constant police brutality and repression, to standing with immigrants against demonization and deportation, from discussions in classrooms in high schools and universities to defending clinics and women's right to abortion, from protesting torture and war crimes to demanding liberation for the LGBTQ community—I'm constantly amazed and inspired by all of the places I've been and people I've met and gotten to know while engaged in revolutionary work throughout the course of the few years I've been out of prison.
That is how I came to be at the EHSC on the morning of November 1, 2009, to document Sunsara's statement and then record her talk at the off-site location, as I had done without incident the previous day at that same EHSC. And that is what this prosecution is really about. As Revolution wrote previously, in an article on my sentencing hearing while I was in Cook County Jail:
"Should a whole section of society (there are over 2 million people incarcerated right now in American prisons) be denied the right to participate in the full range of lawful social and political activity by mere virtue of being former prisoners, because the state will use prior criminal convictions to justify political persecution? A message is being sent to intimidate millions of others at the bottom of society, 'Don't even think about raising your head, participating in political activity or protest, much less taking up revolutionary politics, this is what we will do to you.' We cannot allow this message to stand.
"The 'public safety' is hardly threatened by former prisoners stepping forward to take up the big social and political questions of the day, including those who become revolutionary emancipators of humanity. THAT is the life Gregory has chosen, not a 'path of violence,' as the judge asserted. THAT is what is 'volatile,' and threatening to their system, not Gregory picking up an iPhone." (Judge Slams Videographer with 300 Days in Jail: FREE GREGORY!, Revolution #212, September 26, 2010)
My dedication to exposing and opposing the crimes of this system, as part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system, is the real reason why they have pursued this political prosecution for three years and are now trying to put me back in jail. It will be a real defeat, and a real injustice, if they are able to do that. These outrages happened in a political prosecution in my case—however, they happen on a daily basis to millions of people herded through the courts into the United States' historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration.
Our struggle to defeat these charges has been a small part of the broader struggle against this oppressive system that inflicts monumental suffering on the people, here and around the world. Thousands of people from all different class and social backgrounds, from across the country and around the world, have stood with me through the course of this battle. Many who don't agree with some or even most of my political views have opposed this vindictive prosecution. All of their support has been tremendously important and I've personally found it deeply moving. My defense committee has hosted numerous public discussions about the broader issues concentrated in this case, including speakers such as Bill Ayers and Cindy Sheehan. And this struggle is not over! We are calling on people to sign on to and spread the "Not One More Day in Jail for Gregory Koger" statement—which you can sign at dropthecharges.net. (See box for additional details)
Sometime within the next couple weeks, the court will set a hearing date where they will try to send me back to jail. We will let people know when that hearing is, and we call on you to come out to that hearing and demonstration afterward, if you are able. We will continue to wage a legal and political offensive against these outrageous charges, and put this system—and the real criminals in the ruling class who preside over it—on trial.
I want to close by sharing a few words from two letters written by those who are still locked down in the dungeons who are also becoming emancipators of humanity:
Like these brothers and comrades, and many more behind the walls and on the streets, my life will continue to be dedicated to making revolution and emancipating humanity, whether I'm talking with students in inner-city high schools who face police brutality and repression every day, university students from more privileged backgrounds who are beginning to learn about how this system operates, or whether I am in jail learning from and organizing with other brothers locked down there. I will continue to be part of building this movement to end all of these injustices and bring forth a world where everybody can live a life worthy of human beings and flourish in ways undreamed of under this capitalist system—a communist world.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
The following is from the Ad Hoc Committee for Reason (dropthecharges.net):
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The wheels of INjustice are still grinding. Sometime in the next week or two, Gregory Koger will face a court hearing in Skokie again. The State's Attorney and judge will try to send him back to Cook County Jail to serve a 300 day sentence for his unjust and wrongful convictions on non-violent misdemeanors for attempting to record a political statement on his cellphone at the "Ethical" Humanist Society of Chicago three years ago.
We are calling on people of conscience to come to court on the day of the hearing to stand for real justice and demand NOT ONE MORE DAY IN JAIL FOR GREGORY KOGER!
GREGORY NEEDS EVERYONE WHO CAN TO COME TO COURT FOR THE HEARING!
Gregory's legal team will submit a motion to the court asking for time served on constitutional grounds, and will have two witnesses prepared to testify in support of that motion: Dr. Antonio Martinez (co-founder of the Kovler Center for Treatment of Survivors of Torture), and Gregory's employer at the law firm where he works, Lawyers for the People. Both will testify to the grave injustice it would be for him to be placed back in jail—an injustice that will have far reaching repercussions on numerous people that Gregory's life and work impacts every day.
Whether the judge allows them to testify not, we will put in both the legal and public record what a profound injustice this entire case has been. Gregory committed no crime—and the only crimes that have been committed in this case are the brutal arrest, ongoing political prosecution and outrageous 300 day sentence Gregory received. This case has been nothing but an attempt to repress a former prisoner who transformed himself into a dedicated revolutionary political activist and to send a message to others that this is what the system will do to you if you step forward to oppose the crimes of this system.
We need to pack the courtroom and put the judge and those in power on notice that there are thousands of people supporting Gregory—across the country and around the world—and that many people will be watching the outcome of this hearing.
If the State refuses to end this unjust political prosecution and does send Gregory back to jail, we especially need you to come to Cook County Jail the day after he arrives there for as large a protest as we can gather. At the protest, we will call on numerous people who know Gregory personally and have worked together with him in many different struggles against injustice to speak out. We will again show that the only crime committed in this case has been perpetrated by those in power driving forward this political prosecution against a dedicated revolutionary political activist. And it's critically important for the jail administrators to see that Gregory has a large support system and thousands of people will be watching his treatment.
WE WILL NOTIFY YOU AS SOON AS WE KNOW THE DATES, probably within the week.
PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT YOU CAN TO COME—AND ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO COME TOO.
Just to update you on the legal proceedings: The Illinois Supreme Court refused to consider Gregory's appeal. It issued a mandate to the Appellate Court, which will notify the Skokie court. The Skokie court clerk will call Attorney Jed Stone's office to give him the date when Gregory must appear in court. We will vigorously oppose their attempt to put him back in jail.
We are still gathering signatures on the petition that we will present to County authorities. If you haven't signed it yet, please do so here, and forward it widely.
Not One More Day!
We Support Gregory Koger and Oppose this Wrongful Conviction!
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
Reporter's Notebook from Trial of STOP "Stop & Frisk" Freedom Fighters
by Li Onesto | November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On November 5, even the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Sandy didn't stop this system from pressing forward with its efforts to punish four freedom fighters for taking a courageous stand against stop-and-frisk. Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt, and Bob Parsons, along with nine others, were arrested in November 2011 at a non-violent mass civil disobedience at the Queens 103rd NYPD Precinct. The four now face two counts of Obstruction of Government Administration and one count of Disorderly Conduct for failure to disperse—which carry a possible sentence of 12 months in jail. (See Revolution #284, November 4, 2012, for background.)
As tens of thousands throughout the city were still suffering from no power, heat, gas, and shelter—the Queens County courthouse was up and running again, this pipeline for mass incarceration quickly getting back up to speed. And the District Attorney's office came back ready to resume its determined effort to punish these freedom fighters for standing up against the totally illegitimate, racist NYPD stop-and-frisk policy—that stops and harasses hundreds of thousands every year, especially Black and Latino youth. The prosecution returned, rabid to deliver a message that anyone who resists this criminal injustice will pay a heavy price. The defendants, their attorneys, and supporters were there too, determined to defeat these attempts.
The DA's principal witness was Charles McEvoy, the Commanding Officer of the 103rd Precinct where the civil disobedience had taken place. In 2006, it was cops from this very precinct who fired 50 bullets into a car where a 23-year-old Black man, Sean Bell, was sitting the night before he was to get married, killing him instantly. McEvoy was ready to testify, but first, there was another item for the court to deal with.
Judge Gene Lopez, announced it had been reported to him that "juror #6" had been talking about wearing a "protest shirt" to court. As it turned out, she had been thinking about wearing an Obama T-shirt and the judge said this may "at the least" show some "solidarity and unity" with protests (?!). So juror #6 was brought in and asked whether she could still be fair and impartial in the trial, to which she said, "with no hesitation, yes."
Maybe you're thinking the court was over-reacting a bit here. But wait, it gets worse.
Six hours later, juror #6 was leaving the courthouse and went to reclaim some personal articles confiscated that morning when she went through security. (All kinds of things aren't allowed into the courthouse, including cameras, gym padlocks, Sharpies, small pen knives, etc.) Standard procedure is you get your items back in a plastic bag and sign a form saying you received them. But she was shown an empty plastic bag and told to sign the form without getting her things back. She protested, argued. Then, before you know it, she found herself handcuffed and locked up in a small room and charged with five counts of disorderly conduct.
The defendants, their lawyers and some supporters were still at the courthouse and couldn't believe what was happening. But at the same time, it wasn't a complete surprise. As Debra Sweet wrote on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network Trial Blog that night:
"A lot of people are unjustly arrested in NYC off of stop-and-frisks, exactly our point in protesting it. But not many middle-aged white office workers who live in co-ops and get their news from the New York Times and PBS expect to be arrested while on jury duty. What makes the treatment of this juror unusual and suspect is that she was the only sitting juror who, during the selection process, indicated that she has a negative view of NYPD stop-and-frisk, and was not challenged and removed by the prosecution. We knew they did not like her as a juror. But we couldn't have predicted that the workings of the system of mass incarceration would provide such a vivid example of abusing people's rights."
When the trial resumed on November 7, the arrest of juror #6 was the first item on the agenda. She had been separated from the rest of the jury, was brought in to be questioned about what had happened, and quickly discharged from the panel. But another juror had actually been with juror #6 when she was arrested and had told all the other jurors what had happened. So the rest of the morning was spent questioning each juror. They were brought in one by one and asked what they knew about the arrest and whether, because of this, they could still be "fair and impartial"—basically towards the whole injustice system that had dragged their fellow juror away in handcuffs for simply wanting to get her personal belongings back. One other juror was removed after she said she wanted to be impartial, but that this arrest would still be in the back of her mind. Other jurors described what had happened as "shocking," "frightening," or "scary," but said they could still be "fair and impartial" so they were allowed to stay.
Up to this point, two rookie prosecutors had been arguing the case, with a supervising DA coaching from behind them in the front row. But now, in what they clearly saw as a crisis and an opportunity, the coach took charge, stepped to the front, and went on a rant before the judge to argue for a mistrial.
The DA's preposterous argument was that a fair trial was now impossible because the jury had been "poisoned" and "tainted" since a member of the jury had been arrested for "conduct very similar to that which the defendants are being tried for." In fact, the only thing similar here is that that juror #6 was unjustly arrested, just like the defendants—which the DA was perhaps worried the jury might realize.
He said that now, "regardless of what jurors say about being impartial and fair," and despite any instructions from the judge, this can't be overcome, this can't be "purged from their system because it is so close to the facts of this case." He then went on to say, "If we had been aware that someone had been a witness to a crime similar to what is on trial here we would have not kept them on the jury."
To this, you have to ask—does that mean the prosecution would bar as a juror, anyone who has ever been stopped and frisked, anyone who has been arrested for protesting against injustice, anyone who has even been arrested unjustly (which is a hell of a lot of people), or even anyone who has even WITNESSED any of this!!??
What kind of justice is this?
The prosecution then demanded that juror #6 be banned from the courtroom—even though this is a public trial—citing that she had been out in the hallway, talking to supporters of the defendants, who he referred to as all "protesters." Apparently, in the eyes of the DA, she had not only "tainted" the jury—but because she had fraternized with supporters of the defendants, her mere presence in the courtroom would now further "poison" the trial.
Defense attorneys Marty Stolar, Meghan Maurus, and Tom Hillgardner challenged the prosecutor's arguments that jurors would now be unable to hear evidence and decide the case based on the facts and pointed out that case law shows jurors can only be removed for "gross misconduct," which has to do with issues of the trial—not things that happen outside of the courtroom.
In the end, Judge Lopez ruled juror #6 would not be banned from the courtroom, but if she showed up would have to sit where the jury could not see her. And he ruled against the prosecution's argument for a mistrial. But as one person commented, “things are hanging by a thread” and the DA will probably try to get a mistrial some other way, including by dismissing other jurors. (No alternates are left at this point and Hurricane Sandy has affected two jurors who are teachers, meaning they might not be able to continue.)
When Deputy Inspector Charles McEvoy testified on November 5 (before juror #6 was arrested), the prosecution tried to establish that protesters were guilty of blocking the doorway to the precinct and therefore guilty of Obstruction of Government Administration. McEvoy basically said that while the normal running of the precinct was not disrupted, three cops were prevented from getting to roll call on time and were five minutes late! Seriously, this was about all the prosecution could offer to actually establish concrete evidence that protesters had obstructed any business at the precinct.
So if the protesters were not obstructing any business, why were they arrested? Throughout this trial, the DA and the judge have reiterated that this trial is not about stop-and-frisk, police conduct, etc. but simply about whether or not protesters Obstructed Government Administration. But when defense attorney Martin Stolar cross-examined McEvoy, he got at some of the real truth about what was motivating the arrests that day. He asked McEvoy, "Did the fact that they were protesting against stop-and-frisk by the NYPD have anything to do with your order to have them disperse from the front of the precinct?" McEvoy, of course, said, "Not at all." Stolar also asked, "When the protesters were standing in front of the precinct doors and shouting, 'We are all Sean Bel1, NYPD go to hell' was that part of the reason that you decided you didn't want them in front of the precinct doors?" McEvoy said, "Absolutely not." But through this questioning, the defense was able to make an important point.
McEvoy's testimony also revealed how the NYPD had discussions beforehand about how to basically entrap and then arrest the protesters. In cross examination, defense attorney Martin Stolar asked McEvoy about the "frozen zone" where demonstrators were not allowed and McEvoy said, "If the demonstrators wanted to open the barrier, I should say, and cross through it, they wou1d not have met police resistance, or if the New York City Police Department opened the gate and the protesters crossed into the frozen zone, they weren't going to be encountering resistance in doing that."
Defense attorney Meghan Maurus also cross-examined McEvoy, asking him why they set up barriers but then let the protesters in. McEvoy said, "When they arrived at the precinct we would be able to set up, to maintain order, have structure, and when they were going to enter into this frozen area and have the demonstration in front of the entrance we would be ready and prepared in the event of an unforeseen occurrence."
McEvoy went on to admit, "Yes, I let them in." Then when asked, "You knew they were going to block them [the doors]; is that correct?" he said, "Yes, but I gave them two ample warnings or they would be subject to arrest." The police video shown in the courtroom clearly shows the cops letting the demonstrators in, then shortly afterwards, McEvoy gives the order to disperse or be arrested. Clearly a setup:
McEvoy: I never wanted them in front of the door. I knew they were going to go there. Did I want them there, no.
Maurus: Then why did you let them in?
McEvoy: Because they were allowed to have the demonstration. They want to demonstrate in front of the front door, they were blocking the entrance to the precinct. They could have possibly prevented police functions. So they were given two separate warnings to depart or else they would be subject to arrest, which they did not comply.
The stakes in this political trial are very high. Mass support needs to be built to beat back the attempt to punish these freedom fighters. Defendant Jamel Mims spoke to the larger significance of this trial in a piece he wrote, recently posted at the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:
"As stop-and-frisk is objectively on trial in society, we stand trial facing up to a year in prison for protesting the policy at the 103rd precinct, which set off a city-wide wave of resistance against the policy and mass incarceration. Yet the refrain from the judge and prosecution has been 'stop-and-frisk is not on trial here.' Tell me, how could this be about anything else?
"The system of mass incarceration sits atop a fault-line social contradiction historically centered at the core of the development of the United States: the oppression and exploitation of Black people and other racial minority groups. Since its inception, the United States has maintained a cohering mythology of 'the greatest nation on earth,' and a free and democratic society for all, while maintaining, and depending on, some form of racial caste system. First it was slavery, then Jim Crow segregation, and now the 'New' Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We find ourselves in the midst of a 'post-racial' society with equal opportunity for all, yet 2.4 million mostly Blacks and Latinos are warehoused across the nation, with their rights denied, barred access to housing and voting rights, and legally discriminated against, wearing a badge of shame and dishonor for the rest of their lives. The trial itself, and the prosecution and judge's attempts to rule out any discussion of stop-and-frisk speaks volumes about the necessity they face to maintain this myth, to maintain a veneer of legitimacy while not only trampling over our First Amendment rights to protest, while fundamentally violating the rights of a whole section of people they have historically criminalized."
The trial will resume on November 13 and hopefully the defense will finally get to testify and talk about their reasons for being at the 103rd precinct that day, opposing stop-and-frisk and mass incarceration. Stay tuned to revcom.us and stopmassincarceration.org/trial-blog for updates.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
Saturday, November 17, 2012
November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Across the country and in different ways, join with others to stand up and speak out.
We will not accept a world where women are routinely raped, brutalized, humiliated and degraded. We will not lie down as women's right to abortion and even birth control is being stripped away. We will resist the culture of rape and pornography that equates sex with domination and conquest and treats women as mere objects to be plundered by men.
We will RESIST and we will take a big step towards DEFEATING this war on women. And, through doing so, we will become the people and the seeds of a whole better future.
A future where no woman ever again knows what it is to fear for her safety at the hands of men. Where women never again know what it is to give themselves to a man sexually for any reason other than their own desire—free of pressure, judgment, or degradation. A world where men view women as full human beings and full partners. A world where lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people have not only the full rights—but the full respect—as everyone else. And a culture filled with poetry and music and other forms of art that foster deep respect towards women.
Wherever you are and whatever you do on November 17—be it a march or street theater, a protest at a strip club or an anti-abortion church, a speak-out or poetry reading, or some sort of public "social intervention" where a lot of folks gather—you will be joined by others around the country. Every act will be amplified, more people will be woken up and inspired, and this movement—and the possibility of real liberation—will grow!
Contact us today with your plans or your questions: StopPatriarchy@gmail.com
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
From the Editors:
November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The crisis set off by Hurricane Sandy has laid bare the real ways society operates. It has shown why those ways must be radically and fundamentally changed. And it has shown some of the outlines of how that change could come about.
Ask yourself some questions about how this society—what we are told is the "greatest country that ever existed"—handled this disaster. What was done when it became clear, days ahead of time, that Sandy was very likely going to hit, and hit very hard? Did those with real power in this society—the capitalist-imperialists—make sure that everybody would be adequately provided with necessities in the face of this disaster? Did they use their vast systems of transportation and communication—all built by masses of people, here and around the world—to make sure that everyone would have access to what they needed? Did they even make sure that people—including the desperately poor in this society whose food typically runs out by the end of the month—would be able to eat when Sandy hit? Did they take steps so that those most in need and most vulnerable—including the elderly and the sick or disabled, often living alone, as well as small children—would be taken care of? Did they make preparations to turn over their often lavish office buildings for people in need of shelter? Did they allow use of their massive network of airplanes and trains and buses, including their vast array of military airplanes which rain down death and destruction all over the world, to enable people to travel for free, either to get out of harm's way or to volunteer to help? Did they open up public facilities so that people would be able to meet and organize themselves, and develop the networks to meet the unpredictable needs that would be set off by Sandy? Did they inform people in a living way of the devastation the storm was wreaking in more impoverished areas of the world, like Haiti, and organize volunteers for that, and spread feelings of human solidarity in the face of disaster? Did they try to foster an attitude of "look out for each other"? Did they organize the many skilled people who would want to help into volunteer brigades, ready to spring into action before, during and after the disaster? Did they organize squads of younger, more physically fit people as "runners" to make sure that everybody would know all the latest information?
What would have been so hard about any of the above? In fact, all those steps would seem to be eminently reasonable—good ways to put into play the greatest resource of all: people. And you could probably easily think of two or three or more similar things that could have been done. Indeed, people themselves tried to do many of those sorts of things, and there are many stories of selfless behavior and bravery despite the official discouragement—including from those on the bottom, who are often reviled by the media and politicians.
Yet the capitalist-imperialists who rule America did just the opposite. They either peremptorily ordered people to leave, with no provision for what next, or else demanded that people stay put where they were. Then they put their police on the streets to force people to follow those orders. They cultivated and promoted an attitude of "every man for himself," and that it's your own damn fault if something happens to you. They gave people no way of finding out what was going on. They left whole areas where the basic people at the bottom of society live without water, heat, electricity or food—and then they clamped curfews on them. And they also meted out outrageous, uncaring and downright dangerous treatment to people in more middle-class areas that were hit as well. Not only did these outrages and horrors go on for days, long after the weather cleared—they are STILL going on, and many have not yet even come to light.
Meanwhile, the capitalist-imperialist rulers made sure that the stock exchange—a major medium through which capitalism carries out its compulsion to accumulate ever more profit—opened as soon as possible. And this was not only in order to keep going their continual insane rush for more and more profit—but to make a major symbolic point: THIS IS WHAT MATTERS MOST IN AMERICA.
The governors and Obama toured the stricken areas, and got their photo-ops—but while the media began speculating which politician was gaining advantage from the hurricane, the facts on the ground of how people have been treated and what they are still going through belie all the political posturing and grandstanding.
What does all this tell you? To begin with, it tells you that the class which actually makes decisions in this society puts the highest priority on their ability to keep accumulating capital. It tells you that this class could care less about the needs of the people they rule, and expect them to suffer in silence and ignorance. It tells you that this class will only and can only use the organs of the state not to organize people to meet their needs but to violently repress people—and that they have absolutely no hesitation at all about calling these organs of violence and repression into play pre-emptively.
It has shown, in the words of Bob Avakian, "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism." (BAsics 1:3) And it has shown that this system is utterly worthless and cannot meet the needs of the people.
All this must be radically changed. Imagine a society where everything we described above about what they didn't do—and didn't allow to be done—actually was done. Where the values and vision behind those ideas of what people could have done were what actually guided the major decisions of society and people's daily lives. Where the initiative that people have tried to show in this disaster was given full expression and leadership.
Such a society is possible—and we'll get to why and how shortly. But first, we need to understand WHY these capitalists and their functionaries do everything they can to prevent people from helping each other out in these disasters. In the first place, if people were to take advantage of these times of crisis to overcome the barriers that normally keep them apart, they may "get ideas" about things being different. The people might begin to think that they do not need capitalists warping and perverting society to satisfy capitalism's never-ending need to accumulate more capital—and that society could figure out much better guideposts and measures for allocating resources and labor than just making profit. People might come to believe that what keeps things all messed up and puts people at each other's throats is not "human nature" after all, but instead is the workings of this system and the values that those workings encourage and require in people. That's why these capitalists can't and won't do what almost any humane and sane person would think was the best way to handle such a situation. But even more basically: They cannot do it because the laws of their system—their very survival—demands that capitalist property relations come first.
One sharp example: Think about how this capitalist, profit-über-alles system has not only promoted and driven the environmental plunder that has been contributing to the greater frequency of devastating storms like Sandy; but how those same "rules of the capitalist game" have prevented humanity from taking any steps to deal with this. It is not because they don't care about the environment; it is because they can't care about the environment—if they are to survive in the dog-eat-dog, expand-or-die death match that is capitalism. [See the article "Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change," and the special Revolution issue on the environment, online at revcom.us.]
What is the take-home message in all this? That we need, in fact, a fundamentally different social, political and economic system: one set up to enable the masses of people to set about emancipating themselves; one in which the vast majority of humanity could truly begin to flourish. This will require revolution. This revolution must break the grip of these capitalists on their instruments of force and violence. On that basis, and only on that basis, the new revolutionary power will bring in a whole different economic and political system, socialism, with the aim of bringing into being a whole world without exploitation and oppression, communism.
This revolution is POSSIBLE. Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
The "blueprint" for such a future society has been drawn up and can be studied in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which was published by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, the party which is led by BA. Read this—and see that there really is a whole different, far better and far more emancipating, way that society could be organized.
The RCP, USA has also published a statement laying out the strategy for this revolution. This statement lays out what we can do today to hasten the time, in the future, when conditions could emerge which would make this revolution possible. As part of that, the statement on strategy goes into how the workings of the system itself give rise to "sudden jolts and breakdowns in the 'normal functioning' of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept." It talks about how such jolts—like the one we are experiencing now with Sandy—are important times to mobilize people to fight back, and as they do so to learn that the fundamental problem causing all this horror and needless suffering is capitalism, and how "the solution is getting rid of this system and bringing into being a new system, socialism, aiming for the final goal of a communist world." It shows how through such jolts, and the struggle waged in them, the movement for revolution can "accumulate forces" and grow in strength.
Right now, this means mobilizing people to fight for the basic needs of the people in the face of this catastrophe and to raise their heads to the solution that can be made real, and to get with the only leadership that can carry it through: the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It means pulling together a critical mass of people to influence millions more about the whole different way that really is possible. It means carrying out all three parts of the Party's slogan: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, to do all that.
In short, what does the needless suffering and misery and human isolation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy show? It shows that this world is a horror. That the causes of this horror are not human nature (or nature itself), but the system we live under. That because of the work of Bob Avakian, there IS a way out. So—let's get to it!
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
By Raymond Lotta | November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Hurricane Sandy has left parts of the eastern seaboard devastated. More than 100 people have died in the U.S. Two million people in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area are, at this writing, without electricity. Parts of lower Manhattan remain flooded.
From public housing projects, the reports mount of older residents and the very poor going without food, needed medications, and means of travel. In suburbs, where the violent rampages of wind and rain literally hollowed out neighborhoods, people have been left to fend for themselves.
It is a time of immense suffering and need. But for the ruling authorities what was the litmus test for getting the city back on its feet? That Wall Street reopen, that the wheels of finance keep turning for the endless accumulation of capital. Meanwhile, and just several city blocks away, emergency deliveries of water and food to those in need were stalled for days. In New Jersey, the authorities moved with the same kind of Wall Street zeal to reopen the gambling casinos.
Under dire circumstances, people try to cope and solve problems together. But there are no institutional mechanisms to foster that cooperation. The overarching concern of ruling authority is to keep people passive, to keep people in place, and to keep people under control. People have been thrust into the darkness of power outages, but they are kept in the dark about what is actually happening. In places like Coney Island, people have gone without heat and lighting, while facing curfews and threats from the police.
This is a system in which a small owning-class of capitalist-imperialists controls the economic lifelines and resources of society. It is a system where profit rules. It is a system where state power is used to preserve and extend global exploitation and misery, and to suppress resistance.
But things do not have to be this way.
Let's first step back and examine three key dynamics of this natural and social disaster.
As the article "Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change" explains, the ferocity of Hurricane Sandy has everything to do with climate change. Massive emissions of carbon are leading to Arctic ice-melts and collapses, warmer oceans, and more moisture in the air. And this is causing more frequent and more severe hurricanes. Global climate change is also responsible for rising sea levels that put coastal cities worldwide, with their densely packed populations, at greater risk for flooding.
Capitalism-imperialism has everything to do with climate change. You see, oil, natural gas, and coal—the fuels most responsible for rising carbon dioxide levels that are contributing to global climate change—are essential and foundational to the profitable functioning of this system. Consider the fact that in recent years 7 of the 10 largest corporations in the world were oil and auto companies. Or that the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world.
And consider the trends. In 1997 the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels. But by 2009, U.S. carbon emissions had risen by almost 7 percent! This is the logic of profit and big power jockeying. There is intense competition for market share and strategic advantage in the world economy. There is no "incentive" to radically transform energy production and energy consumption. It's expand-or-die. Drill in the Arctic...drill in West Africa—or some rival corporations and rival powers will beat you.
And so the planet heats up.
A city like New York plays a certain role in the workings and management of the American empire. It is a kind of financial-administrative command-and-control and communications center for globalized imperialist capital. It is profoundly parasitic. Finance is the engine of economic growth. Resources are siphoned towards real estate, speculative construction, and development.
It is a city of extremes: high-paying jobs and the concentration of wealth, on the one side, and, on the other, vast swaths of poverty, low-wage labor, chronically high rates of unemployment, unequal schooling and stop-and-frisk in the oppressed neighborhoods. It depends on vast pools of super-exploitable immigrant labor.
The city depends on carbon-intensive transport for food supplies. Its buildings are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And it has become more vulnerable to extreme weather.
The New York Times ran an article recently about how, for over a decade, scientists warned of the dangers of rising sea levels to the city, and how the city could be flooded. They called for storm and surge barriers to restrain floodwaters. Other task forces took a broader view, calling for measures to protect fragile shorelines and to rethink the density and patterns of urban development.
But these warnings and proposals were ignored. These kinds of long-term and protective measures run straight up against the short-term horizons of capitalism. It was more urgent, more of a priority, to expand lucrative property development than to invest in storm barriers, and protect and expand wetlands that soak up floodwaters. It made more "business sense" for the utility companies to keep investments on the maintenance and upgrading of transmission lines and other infrastructure to a minimum.
And the warnings from the scientists about the city's susceptibility to storm surges were borne out with Hurricane Sandy.
It is very stark. The disruptions in transport and power generation, the dislocation of basic services, and the fact that the city stopped working when people could no longer work—all this revealed how densely interconnected are the activities of social and economic life in a large city like New York. But the city and the larger society are not organized in a way that corresponds to that interconnectedness. There is no conscious social planning to meet human need, to mobilize for emergencies, to protect vital ecosystems.
People are atomized by the very workings of the system. They are forced to compete with each other for jobs, for housing, for higher education. Why? Because of private ownership and control over the means of producing wealth and over the resources of society. It is a system where people are compelled to sell their labor power to survive. At the same time, the system promotes its ethos of each for him or herself, and sets people against each other.
People have a great desire to join together to act in a crisis like Sandy. But that potential is held in check and quashed by this system.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA sets forth a vision and a plan for building a very different social, political, and economic system. This Constitution is based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, which opens the way to a world in which human beings can truly flourish.
This Constitution is a blueprint for a new state power that protects the rights of the people, that enables people to participate in the running and all-round transformation of society, and to carry the revolution forward to a world without classes.
This Constitution sets forth the principles and mechanisms for a liberating economy that meets the basic needs of people, including overcoming the inequalities between nationalities, between men and women, between those who work mainly with their hands and those who work mainly in the realm of ideas. This is a society and economy that will promote the world revolution to emancipate all of humanity from exploitation and oppression. This is a society and economy that will be working to repair, to protect, and to enhance the ecosystems of the planet.
In short, this society is the opposite of what we live under.
In socialist society, the means of production—the factories, transport, telecommunications, land, raw materials, and so forth—will no longer be the property of a small handful of exploiters but will be under a system of public-state ownership. This will enable society to utilize these resources for what is useful and important to the betterment of humanity. People will be guaranteed work; and instead of being drudgery, work will be contributing to the development of society and people's all-around capabilities.
The new socialist society will develop an economy that is no longer based on oil and other fossil fuels and long-distance supply systems. This will require extraordinary innovation and effort, but it will be a priority. The new society will aim to create sustainable cities—more capable of producing to meet basic needs, including food.
These will be cities where the formerly oppressed, rather than being isolated and penned up, will be able to interact with each other in meaningful ways, to organize politically, to create and enjoy culture, and to forge vibrant community. These will be cities in which barriers are being broken down between basic masses and artists and intellectuals, in which people with different backgrounds, training, and talents would be dynamically interacting with and learning from each other as part of the long process of creating the social and material conditions in which everyone will be able to work productively and in the realm of ideas.
The army and police will no longer enforce global empire and the occupation of the inner cities. New security forces will serve the people, protect their rights, and help the people to sort out and work through their differences.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America emphasizes that the conscious activism of the masses of people is what must be relied upon to solve problems and to carry the revolution forward. The Constitution also emphasizes that society will combine centralized planning and allocation of resources with decentralized initiative and creativity.
In a crisis like Hurricane Sandy, the socialist state would allocate needed resources, like food, temporary shelter, building materials, equipment, to where they would be needed most. This will not have to go through the patchwork and competing channels of private ownership and control that exist in capitalist society. The allocation of resources would not be contingent on the preservation of private property and the profit system.
The revolutionary state would be doing all it could to tap and unleash the desire of people to step forward and to help on all kinds of fronts. Relying on the masses would be at the heart of everything that would be done in the wake of such a disaster.
In a socialist society facing a natural disaster of the magnitude of Sandy, emergency priorities would be established—for instance in identifying the most vulnerable sectors of the population, helping the most devastated communities or areas of historic oppression and environmental degradation, and restoring critical links of the economy. Calls for volunteers would be issued and the means provided for them to become involved in relief efforts. Medical personnel, teachers, engineers, youth, and so forth would be dispatched to where they were needed.
Centralization means overall leadership and coordination. It also means paying attention to key social priorities, like uprooting the legacy of racism and the subordination of women.
In a situation like Sandy, efforts would be made to educate people about the scale and challenges of the situation. Specialized knowledge of experts would be popularized—for instance, environmental science, civil engineering—among broad sections of the people. But these experts would also be learning from the knowledge and direct experience and aspirations of basic people and of the youth. Architects and planners would be conducting investigations among the people. Medical personnel would be gaining a deeper sense of local conditions and needs—and training paraprofessionals.
Incredible local initiative and experimentation would be unleashed. Conditions are not the same everywhere. How to make the most of older equipment? How to conserve limited resources? What are the local priorities in rebuilding? Fact-finding missions. Group discussions and debates in neighborhoods. Streamlining administration. Transmitting ideas and criticisms to higher levels of leadership.
The government media and other institutions of state would be spreading advanced experience of dealing with the crisis and the new understanding gained, spreading lessons about how barriers between people and contradictions among the people are being overcome.
In such an emergency, big questions and controversies will pose themselves. Yes, there is acute short-term necessity to provide shelter, food, and health care, and to rebuild. But these needs cannot be met by disregarding longer-term effects on ecosystems. There will be disagreements over specific policies. And in times of disaster, some will be intensely agonizing over the overall direction of society.
It will be necessary to mobilize the activism and understanding of people to confront extraordinary circumstances such as a Hurricane Sandy, and to pull together. But differences will emerge, debates will break out. This is a good thing. The Constitution recognizes the importance of dissent and protest under socialism. In a crisis like this there will be contention and struggle. This process, if handled correctly by the leadership of the new society, will actually enhance both the knowledge and understanding of reality of society as a whole, and serve to forge unity on a new and stronger basis.
Bob Avakian teaches that dissent should not only be allowed but actively encouraged and valued. This is part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking, and of enabling those who had formerly been on the bottom of society to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world.
This kind of socialist society, for which this Constitution is the framework, makes it possible for human beings to cope with a crisis like Sandy. It makes it possible for people to fit themselves to become caretakers of the planet. It makes it possible to bring a new world into being, to move towards communism, a community of world humanity.
Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done in forging the new synthesis of communism embodied in the Constitution, there is a way out of the madness and misery of this system. There is a real solution. There is visionary communist leadership for the revolution humanity needs. As people face the challenges of mobilizing to fight for the basic needs of the people in confronting this disaster, they can and must also raise their sights to what is truly possible.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The crisis set off by Hurricane Sandy has laid bare the real ways society operates. It has shown why those ways must be radically and fundamentally changed. And it has shown some of the outlines of how that change could come about.
Hurricane Sandy is potentially one of the most catastrophic natural disasters since the path of the storm struck one of the most populated areas of the United States—the New York-New Jersey area and stretching well beyond.
We are calling on everyone who reads this to go out among the people who have been most affected by the storm and its aftermath and report on what is happening to them. The picture painted by the media does not reveal what is happening among the people in all the different neighborhoods, in the housing projects and the evacuation shelters; the people with few resources who normally survive week to week... the incredible mosaic of nationalities in New York and New Jersey. There are clearly areas of tremendous devastation and millions who have been affected. These are stories that need to be told. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you do not have access to the internet due to the storm, “phone in your report” at this special hotline: (312) 905-4335.
If you know people who cannot access this article online—call them up and read this to them and have them phone in their reports to (312) 905-4335.
There are disasters from natural causes fueled and magnified by global warming—and then there are the catastrophic workings of the capitalist system which compounds such disasters, causing unnecessary hardship and suffering. While millions are without power and critical care patients at NYU’s medical center had to be relocated, getting the New York financial markets up and running is a major priority from the point of view of the capitalists, and the media is bragging that within a day of the storm the New York Stock Exchange will re-open. What is the situation among those who count for nothing, like the prisoners on Rikers Island which NYC decided not to evacuate? This is a story that needs to be told.
If the authorities are trying to control and “lock down” the people at a time when they are trying to help each other deal with horrific conditions ... if this is being suppressed then that needs to be exposed and opposed. Remember, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were numerous stories about the heroic efforts of people to rescue people from the flooding, while the authorities were busy portraying and shooting people as “looters” for trying to get food and medicine to people in desperate need. (See Statement by the RCP, “On Hurricane Katrina: 3 Fundamental Lessons," 2005).
What does and does not matter to the powers-that-be—and in particular their complete lack of concern for the masses of poor and oppressed people, and indeed for the people in society in their great majority can stand out for all to see at times like these. We are calling on people to go out among the people, including to help formulate and fight for demands which speak to the needs of the people.
Wherever people reading this editorial find themselves, as we unite with people’s struggles to recover their lives, we should be finding creative ways to link those struggles to solving the great challenge of bringing forward a movement for revolution and bring into being a new society and a new state which would put the interests of the great majority of the people at the foundation and at the center of everything it stands for and everything it does.
As the letter from the reader puts it so well, “Tens of millions of people in the most densely populated region of the U.S. have had their lives uprooted, and are facing serious challenges to remain warm and safe. For months to come, people will be struggling to recover from this disaster. Things are not going quickly or smoothly back to ‘normal,’ whatever that meant for different sections of the people in this grotesquely unequal society.”
FIGHT THE POWER, AND TRANSFORM THE PEOPLE, FOR REVOLUTION!
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
BA on Obama
This audio clip is from a recent talk by BA, and is highly relevant going into the elections.
Listen to it, play it for others, and spread it.
Right-click here to download.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
Reflections on What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism:
by Lenny Wolff | November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I recently went back over the interview with BA (What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism). This interview is extraordinarily wide-ranging. It deeply explores questions involved in bringing forward new initiators of a new stage of communism; the new synthesis of communism; questions of strategy; culture; science and morality; the "head and the heart"; and other really critical questions. And it explores all these from many different angles, from the most world-historical to the personal.
I started this particular reading of the interview with an intention to deepen my grasp of its sweep and depth "in its own right." But as I read, I was struck by its direct relevance to some particular problems that the movement for revolution (and those working to lead it forward) confront right now. So I wanted to pull out and highlight, and comment on, a few things that struck me in that light. I'm not trying here to speak to the whole interview, and it would definitely be wrong to reduce the interview to these points—but, as I said, a few points did strike me with particular impact about some of the problems confronting the movement for revolution. The stakes right now are very high and, one way or another, what revolutionaries do in this period will be pivotal to whether we break through the "tough spot" we face—and not breaking through is not an option. So I'm raising all this in a spirit of a hard, scientific look at some trends and tendencies in our work that pull against our breaking through, and of drawing all that we can from what is a very rich piece by BA.
As I was reading through the interview, I thought of a question posed to me by another comrade: do we realize that in everything we do, we have to be leading people? Not just getting them to do this or that particular thing, or to have a conversation about this or that particular point or topic... but actually leading them to engage with, contribute to and be part of building the movement for revolution. Struggling with people, and learning from them as well...and doing all of it as part of something larger. As I went through the interview, not only was BA talking about leadership—in fact, this is a major explicit theme that weaves through the whole interview, and I want to get to that shortly—but he was also providing a model in this.
In talking about this with another comrade, she said well, leadership is line. That's true—but what is line?
Here I want to draw on something that has struck me every time I've read the interview. At one point, in a really rich answer to a question by Brooks on the importance of line, BA notes that, "Line is the application of a world outlook and method to reality. It's a probing of reality and the drawing together and synthesizing of the lessons that are learned from probing reality."
I want to focus on that phrase "probing reality." BA does this in the interview, throughout. Look, for example, at the question that Brooks raises, referring to what someone said on the contrast between the '60s and today, in the section "Resistance... and Revolution." What's BA's approach here? First off, he's doing deep listening—he's thinking about the reality behind Brooks' question, and then he's looking at that reality from different angles... he's using line to probe the reality beneath the question. It's not just "here's where you're right, here's where you're wrong"... or "here's where we agree and here's where we don't, so let's move on." It's not a canned answer taken off the shelf of a set of positions. It's a real exploration of, yes, objective reality—one which fleshes out the contradictory forces and directions of the two different periods under discussion, explores how these played out and still play out in a number of different dimensions, examines how other developments entered into the process, and really fleshes out the dynamics of how things have developed over time and why they did. From there—from that probing of reality—he goes to both the challenges we confront and what we actually have going for us in confronting those challenges. And because it's a fully present, in-the-moment consideration, and because the pulse of life that beats within the abstractions is kept in mind, there's a real freshness to it—new ways of looking at the question, new insights are unearthed. In other words, there's a deep probing and, on that basis, a real synthesis.
You can see this method throughout the interview1, and you can see it in other things too. It's in the questions and answers at the end of the Revolution Talk, for instance—listen again, for instance, to the answer on whether Black people should receive reparations for slavery and the oppression that has followed slavery. Or listen to the recent interview with BA done by Cornel West.
Over and over: probing reality, and synthesis. I'm stressing this because I think that all too often, in practice, a lot of us treat line as if it were a static set of ideas that we bring forward against other sets of ideas (or else, sometimes, as a set of ideas that we don't bring forward because they may "get in the way" of a particular objective!). There's no life to that. And there's no real leadership involved in that either.
This emphasis on probing reality relates to another major theme of the interview—being scientific in our approach, letting other people in on this scientific method, and struggling for that method. Popularizing the scientific method, demystifying it, and explicitly posing it against other methods. I wonder how often, when we're wrangling with someone and they're clearly basing themselves on another method—post-modernism, or religion, or pragmatism, or whatever—I wonder how often we say, "hey, that's not quite scientific" and explain why and then work things through with them with a scientific approach. This has always been a hallmark of BA, but it's extremely striking in the interview—and it's something that, again, I think we could all stand a little self-interrogation on.
(And I mean self-interrogation, and not self-cultivation or self-criticism—I mean going into shortcomings in how we too often come at things precisely in order to do better. I found this part of the interview very important in this regard:
Look, we're all gonna make errors, we're all gonna make mistakes. You can't do anything in the world of consequence, and you certainly can't engage in any major undertaking—and especially one which is trying to transform the whole of human society and the whole relations of people in the world, up against such powerful entrenched forces—there's absolutely no way in the world that you're gonna take very many steps, let alone carry out that whole process, and not make mistakes. The point is: do you learn from your mistakes, do you learn to learn more quickly and more thoroughly from your mistakes, do you honestly confront your mistakes, do you sum them up, and do you let other people know—do you popularize your understanding of the mistakes you made and why you made them, and enable other people to learn from your mistakes? That's the key thing. Because everybody's gonna make mistakes, okay?)
Again, this theme of leadership runs through the entire interview, right from the beginning with the doctor-patient analogy. But here I want to draw on one very pithy way that it's put toward the end of the interview, where BA is speaking to "the heart and essence of communist leadership." It's not, he says, "providing tactical advice in a particular circumstance or particular struggle, even though that may be something that people need to do, and it can be an important element of what they do." Then he goes on to say:
[T]he heart of it is actually implementing "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—is actually bringing forward all of the things we've talked about in terms of enabling people to get a real understanding, scientifically grounded, of the larger picture that any particular thing fits into. What is the overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring? What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that? All that is the essence of communist leadership, whatever level of a party, or whatever part you play in the division of labor of a party, as part of a revolutionary communist vanguard.
Think about that for a minute. This is not to say that particular things don't need to be done. But are we putting them in the "overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring" and which in fact actually determines their significance? Sometimes people will hunger for this. And sometimes it will be quite contentious. All too often, it seems, we let others set the terms on what IS the overall foundation and framework, and then we try to come at things from within those terms. Now it is not about "our framework vs. their framework"—as if these are two different, equally subjective narratives. It is about what is objectively real, and which framework corresponds to that. To return to the quote: "What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that?" We have an understanding of that, we have a method and approach to deepen that understanding, we have a way to listen and go back-and-forth with people without losing that grounding and, indeed, for that very grounding to enrich it—but we have to lead with that.
This is not just a question of whether we do this when we talk with others, important as that is. There is in fact a more fundamental question to pose to ourselves: are we going back to what is said about the "overall foundation and framework" in our own approach to everything we do, to every objective we undertake? And when we do lead others in (very important) objectives—do we understand all that as being part of, and on that basis something that has to be knit into, a larger process, or do we mentally separate these off from that larger context? And, as one comrade recently pointed out in a discussion we had of this, if we don't consciously synthesize these objectives and activities into a larger picture, including how all these relate to preparing people to wage the all-out struggle for revolution when the situation emerges in which that can be done as the next major leap in emancipating humanity... and if we don't weave these together as part of a movement which contains many diverging threads and strands but is all forming a tapestry leading to revolution... then all this work will spontaneously and inevitably be synthesized into "just another part of the current scene"—that is, just another part of the ongoing permanent necessity the masses face. Now I definitely don't want to reduce the whole discussion of leadership in the interview, and even in this section, to just this point: but... again... are we doing this? And if we're not doing this, to quote Joe Veale from a few months back, what ARE we doing?
This leads to yet another important point to compare and contrast on: winning. This comes in at a number of points—and it grounds the whole interview—but here I want to highlight a particular point where BA has just emphasized the fact that what we represent really DOES objectively represent what humanity needs, and that what we're fighting against really IS utterly reactionary, cruel, needless, and, yes, evil. This is an important point of principle to deeply get and to fight for. "But, then," he goes on to say, "the 'good guys' have to win."
We have to actually make this real. If we don't win, if we don't break through, first here and then there—and then, if we're set back, learn from that and go forward again with a new stage and a new wave of this revolution, and eventually get to the point where the imperialists are cornered and holed up in a few parts of the world, and then eventually they're swept away entirely—if we don't do that, then the suffering of the masses of people, the things we were just talking about that we should feel real outrage and passion about, are gonna continue; it may be in some new forms, but they're gonna continue. And the future of humanity is gonna be threatened in an even more acute way through what's happening—what this system is doing to the environment, for example, as well as through the wars that these ruling classes wage, directly or through proxies, or whatever—and they have these nuclear arsenals, and all the rest of it. If we don't sweep all that away and not allow them to destroy humanity in the process, then it ultimately doesn't matter that we're the "good guys." It matters, but in the final analysis it doesn't matter if we don't win.
Let's really sit with that for a minute. It's important to be right and it's important to actually BE "the good guys." But... it ultimately doesn't matter if we don't win. It's important to do the work ourselves to understand and ground ourselves in how everything we're doing is part of politically transforming the terrain and accumulating forces that could actually lead a revolution... that could actually win... and it's absolutely critical that we imbue others with this understanding. Otherwise, what's the point?
Now BA never loses sight—and he never lets others lose sight—of what it means NOT to win. The acute sense of what it means to let this system keep running—that's always there, in a living painful way, in the interview and in everything else. These are REAL PEOPLE being put on the rack every single day, by the billions. But he also never loses sight of the scientific basis for masses of people to defeat this. There IS a way out... and a way to win. Not a guarantee, not something that won't require a whole lot more work and struggle and mind-wrenching thinking... but a way. A possibility—a real possibility.
This is first of all a point of orientation for communists: is this what we are about? Is this what we are grappling with? Is this part of the "whole larger picture" that we ourselves are living in and thinking about—or is it off to the side? This is a "prove-it-all-night" question and, first of all, for us. But then there's the relationships we're building: are we not just telling people that this is important, but actually showing them how everything is fitting into that—into getting closer to the time when we can actually lead people to deal with all that? Not in a silly way or a way that could unwittingly open us up to distortion ... but are we making the effort to consciously situate everything, in our own thinking and the thinking of others, "from the revolution back." Another way to think about this: do we think about things from the standpoint of leaders of a future socialist state, and leaders of a revolution to get to that state? Do we exude that? It's not a gimmick; it's a question of basic approach. When people meet us, they should come away not only having heard a compelling case for why we need a revolution, but with a real sense that this party is taking responsibility to lead that and has a real grounded sense of how to go about it ... AND that there is a role for them in this revolution, a place for their thinking and suggestions, room for them to probe reality, and a need for them to get on into it, at whatever level of understanding and agreement they're at now.
If we DO understand and do this, then it should not be difficult to instill in the people we work with and lead the feeling that this work has real purpose and direction. I think the way in which the statement on strategy is paraphrased in the interview is important—it's a very basic and simple principle that everyone we're working with should understand, and see themselves in:
While we're reaching and influencing millions, thousands can be and need to be brought forward, oriented, trained, and organized in a revolutionary communist way and enabled to actively struggle for the objectives of this revolution. And, when the time comes that there is a much deeper and broader crisis in society that reaches objectively revolutionary proportions—when the ruling class really has much greater difficulty ruling in the way they've ruled, and masses of people in the millions and millions, and tens of millions, don't want to and, in an active sense, are increasingly refusing to, live in the old way—then that core of thousands can, in turn, influence, can bring into the revolutionary movement, on many different levels, and can lead the millions and tens of millions who are refusing to live in the old way, and are actively seeking radical change.
Yes, this involves struggle. People do not spontaneously see that larger picture, they do not spontaneously see where their activity fits into the whole movement for revolution and how it is transforming society and to what end, they don't spontaneously approach things scientifically (indeed, as BA points out early on, the whole question of whether society can even be approached scientifically is a hotly debated one). Even when they are drawn to revolution, they face all the resistance of society at large—the constant saturation of anticommunism, the constant attacks on the humanity of the masses, and the way in which all that has broad influence right now. And communists themselves, by the way, are subject to the same pulls on this as everyone else and also have to struggle against spontaneity.2
This struggle is a living process. It is itself scientific—or it must be scientifically approached and grounded—and not religious ("spontaneity, get thee behind me"). It is a question of a solid core, with a lot of elasticity, and those two aspects in constant dialectical interplay.
This kind of struggle actually deepens unity and should strengthen our relationships with people. Listen again to the interview of BA by Cornel West, where different outlooks and methods are clearly delineated, and this leads to the ground for unity being more clearly identified (and further strengthened and vitalized), while the areas for further grappling and wrangling are more clearly understood. It's not as if people have to be united with some checklist of points to be involved in this process—again, drawing from the interview:
Even people who may not agree with or may not know that much about the new synthesis of communism, for example—many, many people, thousands and thousands of people—can get actively involved in and be motivated to be part of helping to project this into all corners of society. They can find their own level, so to speak—as long as the way is provided for them to find their own level—to participate in that, with that kind of contradiction in their own understanding, and in their own approach.
That is one very important aspect of, at one and the same time, dealing with unity and contradiction, which is a lot of what you have to do in building the movement for revolution. There are different levels and different forms in which people can unite to fight oppression—to fight the power, to put it that way—even while they have disagreements about how to wage that fight, let alone about the bigger context and framework into which that fits.
- - -
I hope these points spark further grappling with the interview in its own right—which, as I said at the beginning, encompasses and speaks to quite a bit more than the themes I've chosen to focus on here... and further application of the interview to the pressing problems faced by the movement for revolution in both this and other very crucial spheres. In looking back through the interview as I'm wrapping this letter up, I see all kinds of points and passages that would be relevant to go back and put in, but this is the middle of a process, not the end, so I think I'll leave it here... for now.
1. To include just one, particularly striking instance of this approach to line, from a discussion toward the end of the interview on the new synthesis of communism:
I mean, what is represented by communism—and specifically the new synthesis of communism—is actually scientifically analogous to that [earlier an analogy had been made to a cure for "a massive epidemic which is causing horrific suffering"]. It is the way forward. It is not some magic solution. It's a scientific approach to forging the way forward. It has answered—or spoken in a significant way to—some real problems. At the same time, it has posed new questions, identified new contradictions that have to be confronted, which weren't seen as clearly before. And it's an ongoing process of discovering, confronting and transforming different aspects of reality that have to be transformed, in order to achieve the emancipation of humanity. That's what it is. That's why we put it forward. And that's why we struggle to let people know about it and to win them to engage it seriously—and, yes, to take it up—because that's exactly what it embodies and represents. It is analogous to a way to deal with a very serious epidemic. There is an epidemic in which the mass of humanity is suffering terribly, as constituted under this capitalist-imperialist system, and there is a way forward—not a magic wand to wave to solve all problems, but a means for forging a way forward on a higher level than before, as a result of this new synthesis that's been brought forward. [back]
2. In this regard, I want to particularly refer people to a passage in the very trenchant section "Particular Outrages, Particular Struggles, and the Overall Movement for Revolution":
And once you get that [communist] level of understanding—and, yes, it's a process and not a "once and for all" thing—but, once you make the leap to getting that basic understanding and grounding, then it's a question of continually struggling to remain grounded and to get continually more deeply grounded in that understanding, and to apply it in a living way to all the different particular aspects of building the movement for revolution—all the different spheres of struggle, be they cultural, ideological, or political, over major social questions or, as we were talking about earlier, over questions which, at first at least, don't seem to be major social questions but then, perhaps unexpectedly, become that. Now, for communists, like everyone else, there is the pull of what dominates in society. There is the pull of the putrid, revolting culture, ideology, and morals that you have to continually struggle against, not just individually but collectively, together with others. There is the political pull to seeing things in isolation from the overall and larger picture, and into simply being concerned with one particular form or manifestation of the oppressive nature of this system—losing sight of the larger picture into which this particular form fits. That is a constant pull on people. And there is a need—again, not just for individuals on their own, but together, collectively, with growing numbers of people—for struggle to continually loft all of our sights back up to the larger standpoint of seeing the whole picture and proceeding, with regard to any particular aspect of things, any particular part of the struggle, with this whole broad understanding in mind and as the constant guide in what we're doing. This all has to be built as part of preparing the ground for, and getting to the point where, when the objective conditions ripen, we can actually lead millions and millions of people to make this revolution we're talking about, to actually sweep away this system, to defeat and dismantle its repressive institutions, and bring into being new revolutionary institutions that really do serve the interests of the masses of people, and back them up in carrying forward the struggle to continue transforming society, to support others in the world waging the same struggle, and to help people see the need in other parts of the world to wage this struggle more and more consciously toward the common goal of a communist world. [back]
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
At a Critical Time...
October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In a world of vicious exploitation, brutal oppression, and environmental devastation, a new stage of the communist revolution, based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, is fighting to be born. And one essential component of that happening is that Revolution newspaper and revcom.us have the financial resources to survive!
But Revolution/Revolución does not have the financial base to continue to operate—in print or online. That is a situation which must change right away.
A big part of the solution: forging—with creativity and determination—a network of sustainers, people who contribute money to Revolution and revcom.us on a regular basis. Without this network of sustainers, Revolution will not continue to publish—in print or online—and what a disaster that would be! On the other hand, a vibrant, vital network of sustainers will literally sustain this paper and website. That network will itself be part of preparing the ground for revolution. For a full picture of how this can happen, and the role of Revolution within that, see "On the Strategy for Revolution" at revcom.us.
So, it starts with YOU. If you're not a financial sustainer of Revolution, make arrangements with your local distributor to change that NOW. And with those who get, in the fullest sense, what difference this newspaper and website mean to the world at the core of the effort, we should all reach out to many others who are inspired by this new website and Revolution newspaper—from their own perspectives. And we should struggle with and win them to be regular financial sustainers.
Last issue, we called for focused activity in October to forge a network of financial sustainers for the paper and the website. Get together with others to take stock of how this is going—measured against the urgent need to accomplish it. Send us your experiences, and tell us why you are sustaining Revolution.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
From A World to Win News Service
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
November 5, 2012. A World to Win News Service. The cold-blooded murder of 34 striking miners at the Lonmin platinum mine near Rustenburg, in the country's Northwest Province on August 16, sent shockwaves around the world. The international media was incredulous that such a thing could occur in what is often touted as Africa's star democracy, 18 years after the end of apartheid was negotiated.
While violent deaths of poor blacks are still very common in South Africa, where the gap between rich and poor is one of the highest on the planet, this was a massacre by special forces very likely acting on orders from the top of the African-National Congress-led (ANC) state in a planned military-style operation.
Even before the accusations and counter-accusations began to unfold, together with the discovery that many miners were shot in the head or back at close range that day, it was difficult to avoid a flood of memories of the repressive apartheid state machine, for which assassination and gunning down blacks as a form of "crowd control" were a key pillar of white minority rule until 1994.
Accounts of what happened at Marikana vary widely, and that is part of the drama behind the August 16 massacre.1 The previous week, on August 10, a contingent of miners marched to the local office of the National Union of Mineworkers in Marikana to demand that the NUM take up their call for a strike. These workers, mainly men, work 800 to 1,000 meters underground and earn between 4,000 and 6,000 South African rand (ZAR) ($480 to $730 U.S.D.) net per month. Their primary demand was a wage increase to 12,500 ZAR ($1400) a month gross, but years of exploitation, dangerous working conditions, very poor living conditions and frustration all combined to erupt in the form of a wildcat strike.
The NUM rebuffed them, reportedly by insisting they return to work and go through the proper collective bargaining procedures under its auspices. Later many eyewitnesses described in detail how several armed NUM officials came out of their offices to break up the march and fired on the workers, killing two of them. From there tensions escalated and so did the strike. On August 13 police shot at a group of strikers walking to another Lonmin mine nearby to enlist the support of workers there. The police killed two or three workers, while the workers reportedly killed two policemen with their traditional weapons.
Led by 3,000 men, mostly rock drill operators, miners occupied the small rocky hills called koppies near the Marikana mine, where they spent several days and nights, meeting and planning the strike, singing struggle songs, wooden sticks in the air. They refused to talk with local NUM leaders and mine management refused to negotiate with them.
As one person summarized events that week before the massacre, "Mine owners called in the nyalas (armored police vehicles), and police were beating up people in the settlements. NUM officials were collaborating with the police and the strikers chased the NUM shop-steward types out of the townships. The strikers banded together for protection." During the skirmishes that week two security guards were also killed in a nearby mine village, as part of 10 deaths that preceded the massacre.
The national SA police spokesman announced that August 16 was going to be "D-day." Lonmin's representative constantly repeated on TV that the strike was illegal and the company wouldn't meet with "criminals." On August 16, a South African Council of Churches delegation tried to negotiate the conflict but Lonmin management refused to meet with them also. Just as the church delegation was leaving the area they heard bursts of gunfire. They got a cell phone call from one of the strikers who asked, "Where are you? They are shooting us." Then the phone line went dead.
Heavily armed special forces—including a Tactical Reaction Unit, a National Intervention Unit, a Special Task Force and regular police—backed up by 62 armored vehicles set up a razor wire barrier in front of the largest hill. As the miners came down, apparently planning to return to the settlement, police opened fire with automatic weapons amid a cloud of tear gas that partially obscured their assault. In a matter of minutes, 34 miners lay dead. This was the scene shown in the initial video of the shootings broadcast around the world.
Some reports say that the police vehicles then rolled over and crushed the bodies of those who hadn't died instantly. It was revealed later that most of the 34 who died were not killed in the initial attack filmed on video. A different story emerged after journalists and activists went to the scene and spoke directly with survivors and their families and filmed the blood on the rocks on two smaller koppies. While helicopters fired tear gas from above to immobilize other groups of miners hiding on the back side of the main hill, police also attacked on foot, approaching one after another of the miners and apparently killing them at point blank range. Some witnesses testified that several men were also shot through the head from the circling helicopters.
Police rapidly collected cell phones to get numbers and identities of strikers. A young miner who escaped death had found the phone of his friend crushed by a police vehicle. When he opened his hand, there was nothing but a flattened piece of metal.
In addition to the murdered miners, more than 80 were injured and 279 were arrested, 150 of whom said they were beaten in custody.
According to Lonmin management, 95 percent of its 28,000 mineworkers didn't report for work.
Who is responsible? Because of the intense political fall-out, this is a question that the ANC government and its institutions and organizations are ducking even after officially defending the police. A Commission of Inquiry is under way. Much of the controversy hovers around the way in which the massacre went down and the lies, cover-up and political stakes nationally and internationally, but also the justice of the demands of these platinum miners or whether they were being "too greedy," as one headline screamed.
The militant confrontation with big corporate mine owners, the police, the ANC government and its unions ignited a wave of strikes not just across South Africa's platinum belt, but in gold, chrome and iron ore mines as well. An estimated 80,000-100,000 mineworkers in at least a dozen companies have gone on strike for varying durations between August 10 and early November. But the contagion spread further. Thousands of truck drivers quickly followed suit in a three-week union-backed strike and in KwaZulu-Natal Province 3,800 clothing workers, paid below the minimum, demanded a "living wage." Apparently nearly 200,000 government employees also threatened to walk out, their union said.
Originally the conflict in Marikana was presented as just a turf war between rival unions, but as the story began to unravel, not just the repression but the politics of the ANC and its national trade union confederation (COSATU, which includes the National Union of Mineworkers) came under attack. Because NUM, the dominant union in the mines since the ANC took power, did not support the miners' strike, the workers quickly cast aside NUM's authority. As a result, a section of its membership shifted to the independent Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and refused to talk to NUM. COSATU, the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), all part of the ruling tri-partite political alliance, at first condemned the "violent illegal strike," calling it the work of "anarchists" (i.e. non-ANC). As one activist remarked, "NUM is 'king of the hill' inside COSATU," so this rebellion sent tremors throughout the ANC alliance.
The massacre provoked immediate and widespread outrage throughout the country and the world. People from every social class and in every corner of the country have been debating the massacre, the strikes and the media coverage. Initially murder charges were brought against the arrested miners, employing an old apartheid "common purpose" law under which they were held responsible for the deaths of their own comrades at the hands of the police, but the National Prosecuting Authority quickly dropped them after a national and international outcry. In some cities as well as in the Rustenburg area solidarity demonstrations were held.
The ANC was losing sleep over threats to its legitimacy, its image and frankly, its future. Along with investors, it kept a worried eye on the stock exchange, where precious metals dipped. Stock prices jumped back up again when both sides in the strike reached an uneasy settlement a few weeks later.
A large number of the platinum miners—and of these strikers—are migrant laborers from poor rural areas of the Eastern Cape Province, those ethnically segregated reserves for the black population known as bantustans under apartheid rule. Many funerals were held in the former Transkei and it was reported that the common language of the strikers was Xhosa rather than Tswana, spoken in the Northwest Province where the mines are. Partially to get around labour laws, mine owners often hire workers through centralized labor brokers rather than directly. This practice drives down wages and expectations and preys on the highly vulnerable unemployed rural poor from outside the area, partly in order to foster divisions among workers.
Those hired by labor brokers often don't get benefits or allowances for housing or healthcare. Many miners can't afford to live even in the more established black townships nearby because they must send money home each month to support their families in the rural areas—the reason they travelled so far to get a job in the first place. So they have little choice but to live in the hated single-sex mine hostels or in dense settlements of shacks. Many shacks don't even have windows for fear of being robbed. One miner at Lonmin who buried his brother back in the Eastern Cape after the massacre, said he and his father, also a miner, support 18 people back home between them.
Two days before the shootings a report released by the Bench Marks Foundation, an NGO of the SA Council of Churches, detailed the still appalling living conditions of platinum miners and warned that if they weren't improved further uprisings were likely. Sanitation is terrible and clean water often not available, partly due to environmental pollution caused by the mines. Townships and informal settlements sprawl around the stark, dry landscape, in sharp contrast to the multi-billion dollar operations around Rustenburg, with high-tech security and CCTV monitors to control theft by miners.
Even if mine wages have increased since the days of apartheid, daily life for miners remains hard and dangerous. Safety hazards are many, from falling rocks to high noise and temperature levels. The constant exposure to fumes and platinum dust over time often results in permanent skin and respiratory complications associated with a disease called platinosis. If you add in the reality of non-existent or chronically under-serviced health facilities and extremely rudimentary living conditions, it's not a job to envy. Yet at least it is a job, in a country where unemployment is more than 25 percent, often reaching more than 70 percent in the former bantustans, which are easy recruiting grounds for labor brokers.
Social conditions are intolerable too and women bear much of the brunt. One miner told a reporter, "There's nothing to do here but work, get drunk and use prostitutes." Speaking in front of the dusty shack settlement outside the mine shafts where she lives, one unemployed woman in the area, also from the Eastern Cape, said that although she passed the entrance test for the mine, she was not hired because she refused to provide sexual services in return and didn't have the money for a bribe to be put on the hiring list. She also recounted how many men didn't want their wives or girlfriends to work underground "because they know what goes on down there."
These conditions are not so different from those suffered by miners working for mainly international mineral extraction companies during long decades of apartheid and settler colonialism. At the same time, semi-protective labor laws have now been passed.
South Africa's mines are and always have been a key artery to the imperialist world. Exploitation of minerals and the forced harnessing of black labor to work the mines through accelerated land dispossession and colonial tax laws began back in the 1860s with the discovery of gold and diamonds. Platinum, used primarily in automobile catalytic converters, but also jewelry, was discovered only in the 1920s in the Northwest. Three giant mining corporations—Anglo American Platinum (Amplats),2 Lonmin and Impala Platinum (Implats) operate dozens of shafts in the Northwest Province, where 80 percent of the world's platinum is mined.
These groups mainly comprising international capital have added a few hand-picked black businessmen and women to their boards. Their participation in shareholding was financed in large part by the mining companies themselves to fulfil racial diversity expectations. And the role of the mainly black ruling party, the ANC, has been key in facilitating the slightly modernized exploitation of South Africa's raw materials since the end of white minority rule.
Picture this example: Lonmin, the world's number three platinum producer, has a license issued by the SA government to run its operations until 2037, renewable until 2067. Who sits on their board as a "non-executive" director? Cyril Ramaphosa, a long-standing ANC "comrade" and prominent member of its National Executive Committee, its highest leading organ. As a representative of the bridge between the ANC and the private sector, he was a top contender to become the ANC's presidential candidate in 2009 before Jacob Zuma was chosen instead. Ramaphosa used to head up the NUM and helped build the COSATU federation under the ANC's wing. He became one of South Africa's handful of black super-rich, derogatorily called "Black Diamonds" created through the Black Economic Empowerment program that aimed to promote black-owned businesses. That scheme enabled him to invest in land and build up his own investment holding company with shares in resources (minerals), financial services, property, infrastructure, energy and food and beverages.
So behind the Marikana massacre, you can connect the dots of the kind of populist bourgeois democracy that reliably serves imperialist interests and national capitalists alike (some black, but mostly still white): brutal repression carried out by the state's special police forces; ANC political leaders with direct financial interests in mining; ANC-led unions fighting with independent ones and trying to dissuade mineworkers from striking for higher wages while signing a "peace agreement" with management (which most strikers refused to recognize); and, from the central government, a warning from the Public Enterprises minister that prolonged labor unrest will undermine investor confidence and lead to losses in jobs.
In other words, while the lion's share of profits are going to Lonmin's imperialist pockets and while they and other corporate interests are by far the major players in the industry, the collaborative political role of the ANC government and its direct and indirect linkages with the private sector—still mainly in white hands—provide the necessary lubricant for this capitalist machine to properly function. In addition, the populist face of the ANC in power laments and "empathizes with" the deep inequalities that blacks continue to suffer from the colonial past and offers reform salves for these wounds. When it came to governance in 1994 the ANC pledged to eliminate poverty, unemployment and racial injustice, redress white monopoly land ownership and provide universal education, healthcare and other services—all without uprooting the system that causes all this misery. Although this social reform plan has been nuanced somewhat over time, such promises were at the heart of the ANC's Redistribution and Development Program, or RDP, merged into a neo-liberal framework.
But very little has changed for the poor in South Africa since 1994, especially in the countryside. The ANC-led state has not been able to re-wire capitalist growth for the benefit of the oppressed black population, nor did its neo-liberalizing economists ever really believe this was possible. If anything, alongside the new black middle class, especially visible in the cities, the gap between rich and poor has grown.
Social discontent took root long ago. This recent strike wave among miners followed a series of public sector strikes. After numerous police crackdowns and a couple of deaths, service delivery protests subsided in some areas, only to pop off again in others. In September 2012 workers hired by one of the large labor broker companies targeted a local power station, burning buses and other vehicles. Following numerous demonstrations against cuts in education, technical school campuses in Pretoria were closed in August 2012 as students blocked entrances with burning tires and boycotted classes to protest the lack of accommodation and financial aid. Although organized social movements and protests tend to be issue-oriented with their ups and downs, different forms of this malaise can be seen almost everywhere in South Africa, spanning different political viewpoints, social expectations and understandings of the system and the state.
The ANC's triangular political alliance (ANC-SACP-COSATU) plays an important role in helping the state stabilize an otherwise potentially much more volatile black population which expected not just more services and infrastructure but a major change in the whole social order that would be different from apartheid.
The South African Communist Party, formerly a pro-Soviet party, set its sails towards the West and accepted aid and sponsorship from several imperialist countries when state capitalism in the Soviet Union collapsed. Now they debate the shortcomings of the capitalist system as a close ally of the ANC in power, helping to preside over this murderous and unjust system that was flexible enough to do away with formal apartheid laws and give black people the right to vote in 1994. Through its writings the SACP also continues to try to lend theoretical and political substance to a hollow national liberation program that in reality always represented little more than an agenda for political compromise and sharing power within the existing bourgeois state—exactly what the masses got.
Although it was the defiant, decades-long struggle of the people that brought apartheid to its knees, and the ANC was part of the anti-apartheid movement, there was no revolution of any kind in 1994. The power-sharing deal between the ANC and the ruling apartheid National Party was the outcome of lengthy negotiations brokered by the West. Many of those South Africans who bought into the demagogy and helped build the trade unions today deeply resent what they see as its betrayal.
Now the political forces grouped around the ANC are feeling the sting of public opinion reacting to the Marikana massacre from a variety of points of view. In an editorial following the massacre, after tracing the history of exploitation of black workers in South Africa, the SACP deputy secretary-general expressed his indignation that charges of "authoritarianism" were being directed against such a democratic state with such a democratic constitution. He pleaded with people not to "demonize" the alliance because of the Marikana events.
The political cracks in the ANC's rule are widening and its true nature as servants of the parasitic capitalist class has been made more visible to many. As one observer commented, "People see COSATU-ANC as part of the same system that is oppressing them and are protecting the capitalist interests. Not just in the mines. Those people have become oppressors themselves. It's taken a number of years for people to see it but as time moves on, the interests of these black capitalists will also become clearer to them."
Naturally opposition parties are lapping up every false step of the ANC government for their own potential gain, constantly repeating charges of corruption and inept administration. And all is not well within the ANC alliance itself, which the Marikana massacre has further strained. As the ANC heads into its national congress in December 2012 that will decide whether to continue with Jacob Zuma or replace him, factions are vying over how to revitalize its posture for more social reform while pushing ahead with the neoliberal agenda and what it requires.
One rift involves Julius Malema, former leader of the ANC youth league who was recently kicked out of the party and is now facing prosecution for money laundering. Fist in the air, he also jumped into the miners' conflict as a platform for his dispute with the ANC leadership. A favorite distraction for the South African media, Malema (renown for, among other exploits, eating sushi off half-naked women's bellies at an ANC nightclub), has his own ambitions in national politics, so his timely denunciation of Zuma's "handling of the crisis" boosted his following, at least temporarily, particularly among ANC youth.
With the murders and funerals of their comrades hanging heavily in the air, miners rejected several wage offers that did not meet their demands for 12,500 ZAR/month during more than four weeks of negotiations and continued skirmishes with the police, reinforced by army troops in Marikana, sent to prevent further political meetings and demonstrations. On September 18 Lonmin finally agreed to an unprecedented 22 percent wage increase. That gave rock drill operators 11,078 ZAR3 ($12,275) per month before numerous deductions, and general miners 9,611 ZAR, up from 8,164 ZAR. Most Lonmin miners returned to work two days later.
A planned four-month-long inquiry has begun and more ugly details of this mass execution are likely to emerge. But not without a struggle. On November 2 strike leaders who had presented initial testimony and were returning to their township were stopped by a police barricade. Lawyers reported that police put a hood over their heads and told them that if they talked they would be shot.
The Lonmin settlement came far too late to stop the spark to many other platinum mines, as well as chrome, iron ore, and especially gold mines.
In particular, after the massacre 15,000 miners at Gold Fields' KDC West shaft sent the NUM packing in a dramatic sequel to Marikana, demanding similar wage increases. They were followed shortly afterwards by 24,000 miners at AngloGold Ashanti. On November 2 that company announced it was suspending its operations at two mines. More than 8,000 of the striking workforce at KDC East were then fired, and dismissal appeals are pending.
Twelve thousand striking workers from four Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mines in Rustenburg have been out for seven weeks and are still refusing to return without a hefty wage increase. In an effort to get tough, to "draw a line in the sand" and break miners' will and expectations after the Lonmin deal, management dismissed them all, before offering to reinstate them later in the month; some speculate that this is to wipe out benefits built-up and avoid severance pay. Strikers marched on NUM offices to withdraw their membership and on October 30 instead of returning to work they built barricades with rocks, logs and burning tyres, blocking fire engines and confronting a police helicopter, water cannons and several armoured vehicles. A power sub-station was set on fire at the Khuseleka shaft in Rustenburg and the NUM office was also targeted. "We won't go to work until we get what we want," one miner said. "Our kids have been shot at, our families have been terrorized and brutalized, but we are not going back to work."
1. The article "Hunted like Beasts" by investigative photojournalist Greg Marinovich (Daily Maverick, Mail & Guardian) more or less corroborates the brief summary here, based on his and the accounts of several others who went to the Rustenburg area during or after the massacre, spending time at the sites where the miners were killed and collecting stories from eyewitnesses or from those who escaped death that day; much of it has been avoided by the mainstream media because of the pure police terror it implies. [back]
2. Amplats is owned by the infamous conglomerate, Anglo American, whose massive global wealth accumulation is tightly intertwined with its sordid history of exploiting black workers under apartheid rule. [back]
3. Up from 9,063 ZAR before the strike, which after deductions came to between 4-5,000 ZAR. The Mail & Guardian reported that many workers didn't understand their pay slip, it was so confusing. [back]
Sources: Mail & Guardian, Financial Mail, Sunday Times, The Sowetan, Daily Maverick, Bench Marks Foundation, iafrica, Forbes, Lonmin, Amplats, a wide range of political organizations' websites and many other press accounts. Thanks to several comrades who contributed to this article.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
Texas Cops Murder Two Immigrants
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 25, two Texas Parks and Wildlife Rangers reported seeing a "suspicious" truck crossing sparsely populated scrubland near the South Texas town of La Joya, close by the U.S.-Mexico border. They claim the truck driver wouldn't stop for them when ordered to do so.
They began a pursuit, and soon were joined by a helicopter from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS, i.e., state troopers). The DPS troopers later said a blanket they claimed covered the truck bed confirmed their belief that the truck carried a drug shipment. One of the cops, Miguel Avila, announced that he was going to "shoot out the tires" of the truck. "We have a clear spot," he declared. Avila leaned out the helicopter and began blasting away.
Moments later, two men riding in the truck were dead and another wounded. José Leonardo Coj Cumar, 32, and Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada, 29, were both from the Guatemalan town of San Martín Jilotepeque. They had taken their perilous journey into El Norte in search of work: José's eldest son needed surgery for a badly injured arm; Marcos had two young daughters and a pregnant wife he had difficulty supporting.
Other immigrants in the truck said the police story about a suspected drug shipment was clearly a lie. For one thing, four people were packed into the cab of the truck. The six in back were only partially covered by a blanket. The fact that the truck was carrying people was clearly visible to the cops in the helicopter hovering 400 or so feet above them. Speaking of the cop's story, Alba Caceres, from the Guatemalan consulate in McAllen, Texas, told a reporter that "Neither you nor I believe it."
The immediate response from Texas state officials was cold-blooded, brazen defense of murder. Sid Miller, the Texas state representative who heads the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety which oversees the Texas DPS, responded to questions about the shooting this way: "Looks like everything was done according to DPS policy. It's unfortunate some people died, but I guess the lesson is: don't be running from the law. So there will be no hearing." A spokesman for Rick Perry, the Christian fascist governor of Texas and former presidential candidate, also called the incident "unfortunate," and then continued, "But border security continues to be a top priority for Gov. Perry and the people of Texas."
The notoriously violent and racist Texas Rangers conducted an "investigation" into the incident, and have turned over their findings to the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Hidalgo County District Attorney René Guerra also announced a grand jury investigation.
But at this point, no charges have been filed against any of the cops. Miguel Avila is back at work, doing "administrative duty." D.A. Guerra indicated the scope and direction of the official "investigations" and "hearings" when he told reporters, "The only thing that we're discussing is an overview of the incident. They [the Texas Rangers] brought preliminary facts and we are redirecting some areas in the investigation that they have to investigate through their sources and also Parks and Wildlife; just general stuff to set up the incident maps, the layout of the land, that kind of stuff." When a reporter asked Guerra whether charges would be filed against Miguel Avila, Guerra replied, "That's not even under consideration right now."
In fact, the only person facing any criminal penalties in this incident is the 14-year-old driver of the pickup, who has been charged with felony evasion of arrest. The youth has been released to the custody of his grandmother.
In an October 2012 report to the UN titled "Human Rights Violations on the United States-Mexico Border," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the U.S. government's militarization of the border and criminalization of immigrants have led to "extensive civil and human rights abuses, including the deaths of more than 5,600 unauthorized border crossers. In addition, at least 18 individuals have died since January 2010 as the result of alleged excessive use of force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, including six who were under the age of 21 and five who were U.S. citizens." On October 10 this year, 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Sonora, Mexico was shot dead by Border Patrol agents while he was in Mexico, for allegedly throwing rocks onto the U.S. side of the line. These killings are an expression of the grotesque militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border that has been under way for years and has accelerated under Obama.
In the last seven years, Texas and the Office of Homeland Security have poured over $600 million into "Operation Border Star" and other programs directed at militarizing state and local police units along the border. The result has been the purchase and deployment of Predator B drones, six armored high-speed gunboats on the Rio Grande, each of which is armed with six .30-caliber fully automatic machine guns capable of firing 900 rounds a minute, and a $7.5 million high-altitude spy plane. Ranger Reconnaissance Teams, in combat fatigues and carrying assault files, also now operate along the southern border.
The border between the U.S. and Mexico is soaked in the blood of thousands of immigrants who have died trying to cross it, and haunted by the pain of thousands more locked up in its detention centers. It is a dividing line and a point of collision between the U.S. and the countries this capitalist-imperialist monstrosity dominates to its south, dominating and distorting the already ravaged economies of those countries.
Since 2006 when the U.S. forced the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the people of that region, there has been a significant increase in investment in production for export rather than local consumption. According to the World Bank, a major instrument of western imperialism, "Poverty in Guatemala is both widespread and severe. Approximately 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line, which is defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services. Almost 58 percent of the population have incomes below the extreme poverty line, which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food."
The Southern Borders Communities Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others organized and participated in protests and vigils in La Joya and other border locations. People carried pictures of the dead, and have vowed to continue to fight for justice.
We demand justice for José Cumar and Marcos Estrada!
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Since the last week of September, dozens of environmental activists along with local landowners in East Texas have been attempting to blockade construction of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. This section of the pipeline would carry tar sands oil extracted in Alberta, Canada, from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico coast. The blockade actions are concentrated near Winnsboro, two hours from Dallas, but have also occurred in other parts of the state.
Last year 1,200 people were arrested in civil disobedience actions at the White House calling for President Obama to reject the entire Keystone XL pipeline. If built, this pipeline would greatly increase the flow of tar sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast for shipment. The actions in Texas have been joined by other opposition to the tar sands, such as recent protests against other proposed pipelines from Alberta through pristine wilderness to British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada.
Tar sands oil is some of the dirtiest, most carbon-polluting on the planet—and carbon in the atmosphere is the main cause of global warming. Extraction of tar sands oil is itself greatly destructive to the environment and indigenous peoples' lands in Alberta. And the Alberta tar sands reserves represent a huge pool of carbon, which, if burned, would further exacerbate the warming of the planet. This global warming is already causing great harm around the world, including more frequent and damaging extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods, and droughts—and it poses an urgent threat of catastrophe to ecosystems and life on earth.
Tar Sands Action, which organized the protests in DC, called Keystone XL a "fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent." Climatologist James Hansen has said that if the tar sands reserves are fully extracted and burned, it would be "game over for the climate."
The current protests in Texas are called by Tar Sands Blockade. Blockaders have been sitting in trees to try to stop construction of the southern part of the pipeline, which is cutting a swath through Texas forests and farmland. Others have chained themselves to construction equipment and protested in other ways to call attention to and try to stop this pipeline from going through.
TransCanada, the builder of the pipeline, working with local authorities has turned the sites surrounding the protest into a police state. The courts granted TransCanada the right of eminent domain to force landowners to sell land for constructing the pipeline. TransCanada has hired local police to be private security and try to suppress the protests. Activists have been pepper sprayed, Tasered, and brutalized. People who have tried to resupply tree-sitters with food and water have been harassed and arrested. Tree-sitters have endured threats and taunts and been denied food and water by these "security forces." The company is videotaping activists, and is seeking an injunction to stop the protests and force activists to pay damages for the "crime" of seeking to protect the land and save the planet.
In their lawsuit, the company called these courageous people standing up for the planet "eco-terrorists." Police have even handcuffed and detained reporters, including from the New York Times, to prevent them from interviewing tree-sitters. Despite this, the Times article on the protest didn't even report the arrest of their own journalists.
To this point, at least 35 people have been arrested, including actor Daryl Hannah, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and a local landowner. All kinds of charges have been put on the protesters, including some felonies and resisting arrest charges against people doing non-violent civil disobedience.
Obama helped jump-start the building of this southern portion of Keystone XL. He personally went to Cushing, Oklahoma, in March to announce his approval for the project, saying, "And today, I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done."
Despite all the suppression, the protests have been continuously joined by new people. Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert said on Democracy Now! that stopping Keystone XL "is a necessary condition for our collective future. If it goes online and starts moving over 800,000 barrels a day of this incredibly energy-intensive dirty fuel to the Gulf Coast refineries, we're not going to have a viable future on this planet."
The significance of the increasing resistance to environmental destruction manifested by these protests is deeply underscored by the devastation and wrecking of lives wrought by Superstorm Sandy on the people of the Atlantic coast and the crimes of the system in Sandy's wake. The tar sands blockades should be supported and spread.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
by Jamel Mims | November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following article was posted on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website.
For several days, I have been watching the largest metropolitan area in the wealthiest country in the world brought to a standstill by the most crippling natural disaster in decades. Much is revealed of the priorities of this country by what they pour resources into fastest. Schools are shut down, but the New York Stock Exchange is up and running. Residents of the Lower East Side in Manhattan who live in poverty are without power and basic necessities, yet the Financial District at the southern tip of Manhattan is open. The subways and railroads are flooded and in limited operation, but the courts and the political railroads remain flooded with people and continue operating on the fast-track. While the city focuses its attention on recovery from the damage of the "Storm of the Century," the tempest of mass incarceration and its path of destruction goes swirling on, tossing about and disintegrating the lives of thousands of people each day.
On October 31, I traveled through gridlocked traffic in two boroughs to appear in court in Queens. I am in the midst of trial, facing up to one year of jail for nonviolently protesting the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy at the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica, Queens. This action in November 2011 was part of a series of city-wide actions called for by Cornel West and Carl Dix, which has ignited resistance to the policy and helped bring about a climate where the policy is at the forefront of every news headline.
Despite the storm, the line at the Queens County Criminal Courthouse wrapped around the block, and I overheard stories of people without power, water, or transportation who somehow made it to the line that morning to deal with the cases the state has against them. Many of them had their cases delayed substantially, six weeks out until December. But when our attorneys met with the judge, it was made quite clear that not only is our trial scheduled to continue with great haste, on Monday, November 5th, but that the judge is also considering the relatively unprecedented step of a re-voir dire of one of the sitting jurors. He feels that juror may no longer be unbiased, as during the original jury questionnaire she expressed her opposition to the stop-and-frisk policy. This comes on top of the District Attorney twice escalating the charges before trial, first adding an additional count of Obstruction of Governmental Administration, and again by charging us not as individual agents, but as "acting in concert," which means if I or any of my three co-defendants are found guilty, we are all found guilty.
Now confronted even more sharply with how seriously the gears of the injustice system are grinding forward in this case, I want to go further than my last piece in explaining why this case matters to more than just those who know and care about me personally. I know that many who already lived one paycheck away from disaster—the bulk of those who are the targets of the very policy I am facing jail time for protesting—are legitimately distracted and profoundly overwhelmed by the urgent need to get food, dry clothes, and clean drinking water. In the midst of these catastrophes, with both natural and unnatural causes, our prosecution still remains among the city's top priorities. Why?
Sharing the story of our protest against the stop-and-frisk policy, and the outrageous charges lobbed at us as a result, has galvanized support from people from all corners of my life, and helps to shed light on just why the authorities are so adamant in pursuing the charges against us. High school classmates at Sidwell Friends; acquaintances from the Fulbright program; teachers, artists, and students I work with here in New York City; people across the country are inspired by the city-wide civil disobedience actions we conducted, and the stand we are taking through these trials.
It's been amazing to receive such an outpouring of support among my high school network at Sidwell Friends, many from sections of people who are not the victims of racial profiling, yet are outraged that it happens in this society, and that one of their classmates now faces jail time for protesting it. Many of their sentiments even begin to call into question the legitimacy of the justice system. There are also those who have shared their stories of living under the New Jim Crow. One co-worker recounted growing up in Jamaica, Queens at the 103rd, under constant harassment from the police, even going so far as drawing their weapons on him on several occasions. Another co-worker shared the humiliation of coming into work and being stopped and searched at the door by school police, while her boss was waved in past the metal detectors without issue.
A young man from the South Side of Chicago responded to my article, recalling that "stop-and-frisk" was always the norm in certain areas. "This was usually performed by un-uniformed detectives in Chevy Caprice Classics and Ford Crown Victorias. In my case, there was no formal announcement of policy, it was just the norm. If you were a young Black man walking or driving through certain areas you stood a significant chance of being stopped and searched. At the time it was very common to grumble about it, but it was rare that anyone took the time to advocate for our rights in the face of that type of oppressive behavior. So I say all that to say: Thanks for what you are doing Jamel. I wish that there had been one of you in Chicago during the 90's."
There is much to learn from these expressions of support. They are not only indicative of the tremendous social weight of the issue we face, but also of the tremendous fear the rulers of this system have of further exposing the scope of, and fomenting resistance to, the human rights nightmare of mass incarceration. The powers-that-be really have a dilemma on their hands. In the face of upheaval around the social fissure of mass incarceration, they can choose to back off of repressive policies such as stop-and-frisk, like releasing a steam valve in order to release the pressure. Or, they can dig in and enforce it more brutally, and isolate and crush any potential movement against it, risking unleashing an even more severe and thoroughgoing wave of resistance.
In light of this, it comes as no surprise that just as stop-and-frisk is a controversial flashpoint in society we are facing an unprecedented wave of repression. The authorities have doubled down on their support of stop-and-frisk, and continue to wantonly harass and murder Black and Latino youth. Just this year, Reynaldo Cuevas, a young Latino, was murdered in the Bronx as he ran to safety fleeing a robbery at the bodega in which he worked. Jose Polanco, a National Guardsman, was shot point blank in his car on the side of the road by an officer with a case of road rage in Queens. These cases are by no means uncommon: every 40 hours, another young life is stolen by law enforcement in this country. Just in New York City, the NYPD have made 685,000 reported stops—the NYPD has in fact stopped and frisked more young Black men than there are young Black men in the city.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have gone on a PR tour justifying this brutality to the masses they inflict it upon, speaking to all-Black congregations to remind them that Black and Latino youth are dangerous, and that these measures are taken to protect the citizenry from unruly criminals. The case against us is a particular expression of this dilemma: as stop-and-frisk is objectively on trial in society, we stand trial facing up to a year in prison for protesting the policy at the 103rd precinct, which set off a city-wide wave of resistance against the policy and mass incarceration. Yet the refrain from the judge and prosecution has been "stop-and-frisk is not on trial here." Tell me, how could this be about anything else?
The system of mass incarceration sits atop a fault-line social contradiction historically centered at the core of the development of the United States: the oppression and exploitation of Black people and other racial minority groups. Since its inception, the United States has maintained a cohering mythology of "the greatest nation on earth," and a free and democratic society for all, while maintaining, and depending on, some form of racial caste system. First it was slavery, then Jim Crow segregation, and now the "New" Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We find ourselves in the midst of a "post-racial" society with equal opportunity for all, yet 2.4 million mostly Blacks and Latinos are warehoused across the nation, with their rights denied, barred access to housing and voting rights, and legally discriminated against, wearing a badge of shame and dishonor for the rest of their lives. The trial itself, and the prosecution and judge's attempts to rule out any discussion of stop-and-frisk speaks volumes about the necessity they face to maintain this myth, to maintain a veneer of legitimacy while not only trampling over our First Amendment rights to protest, while fundamentally violating the rights of a whole section of people they have historically criminalized.
The stakes of our trial are high for the movement, and for society. Stop-and-frisk and the scourge of mass incarceration are not just our pet project, nor a "cause du jour." This isn't just about defending our right to protest, but about acting with urgency to stop the continuous assault on another's right to live. One wouldn't sum up the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960's, or the Abolitionists of the 1850's, by saying, "Well, that was just some people's thing, or that was a certain section of people who were passionate about expressing their right to protest."
The Freedom Fighters against the old Jim Crow, those who conducted the freedom rides and sit-ins, acted not just out of passion, but out of moral imperative to challenge policy as a way of bringing an end to an entire system of state-sanctioned racial oppression. Now, we face a situation drastically worse, where millions of youth have stories of living under the New Jim Crow, and thousands of communities bear the scars of a system of mass incarceration whose effects are tantamount to a slow genocide. Yes, the police and the courts trampled over First Amendment rights in the process, but precisely because we spoke up against, and fomented resistance to a conscious policy that concentrates a leading edge of the New Jim Crow. They want to send a message: if you make too much noise around this, we'll shut you up. We want to send the opposite message. You can fight against injustice and beat it back, and win. Their fate, and the terms of mass incarceration more broadly in society, is bound up with what is allowed, and not allowed, to happen to us.
As we recover from one storm and brace to endure another, we stand at the crossroads of a moral imperative. If we are convicted of these unjust charges, there is a danger of weakening the movement, and setting disturbing new terms for those who wish to protest injustice. In winning, we have the potential to put the movement against mass incarceration onto a new trajectory, and come much closer to ending this horror once and for all. In either case, the terms of the conversation won't be the same as they were before. Mass resistance is needed to solve this problem. We are seeing the embryonic steps toward this in the protests against the execution of Troy Davis, the courageous efforts of inmates at Pelican Bay in hunger striking to demand an end to their torturous conditions, in the upheaval against the vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin, and in the resistance concentrated around the issue of stop-and-frisk.
There is still quite a way to go. When we look back at this moment in history, when stop-and-frisk was on trial in society and more specifically in the trial of four Freedom Fighters who put themselves on the line to drag this injustice into the light, which side of history will we fall on?
Check www.stopmassincarceration.org for trial updates, ways to support, and stay involved in the struggle.
Jamel Mims is an multimedia artist, hip hop pedagogue, and activist from Washington, D.C. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study hip hop in Beijing. His work, which ranges from multimedia ethnography to political expression, is joined together by common themes of youth culture, social transformation, and the urban environment. He currently lives in New York City.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 15, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
November 15, Queens, NYC. After a three-week-plus trial of four “STOP Stop & Frisk” freedom fighters, the jury didn’t buy the prosecution’s flimsy case that tried to prove Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt and Bob Parsons were guilty of two counts of Obstruction of Government Administration and should go to jail for one year.
The six jurors came back with a NOT GUILTY verdict on both counts for all four defendants.
The jury did find all four defendants guilty of one count of disorderly conduct for failure to disperse, which is a violation and carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail. Sentencing is January 7, but today, after the verdict was delivered, the prosecution said they are going to recommend a fine or community service.
Shortly after the verdict, Carl Dix told Revolution:
“They were going to make people pay a heavy price for protesting against stop-and-frisk, they crafted it from the beginning, And they failed in this objective. They put on a case where they couldn’t provide any evidence. This verdict is a victory for our side. For this trial, we gathered support, including bringing together lawyers who wanted to fight this case, we spread the word and built the kind of fight that in the end, prevented them from delivering the message and exacting the punishment they were aiming for. But the fight isn’t over. There are nine more people who were arrested that day who are going to be going on trial in Queens. And there are 13 people facing trial for “STOP stop & frisk” protests in Brooklyn. Freedom fighter Noche Diaz faces several additional trials, one in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. And all of this is part of the larger fight to stop mass incarceration.”
Go to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website for more information, press releases, statements, etc. And stay tuned at revcom.us for an account and analysis of the trial.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 15, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
November 15, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The New York Times and the New York Review of Books have recently featured two high-profile articles about the Great Leap Forward of 1958-60. They both serve the anticommunist "master narrative" that the Great Leap Forward was an exercise in demonic Maoist control that led to history's worst famine. And they share in common a method of argumentation that traffics in colossal lies and distortions about historical fact, as well as the actual goals and policies of the Great Leap Forward.
These articles are part of the continuing bourgeois ideological offensive to slander and vilify the Soviet revolution of 1917-56 and the Chinese revolution of 1949-76. The take-home message of these widely promoted attacks on the first wave of socialist revolution is this: "leave this capitalist world of horror as it is; this is the best and only of all possible worlds."
The op-ed "China's Great Shame" by Yang Jisheng in the New York Times (November 13) states that the Chinese revolution, and the Great Leap Forward in particular, had instituted a "vast system of slavery in the name of liberating mankind" and that this system led to the death of "36 million victims." There is not a shred of truth to these statements, and the "facts" cited by the author are no more than baseless assertions.
But readers can learn the truth of the Great Leap Forward—about what it set out to achieve, its actual record of accomplishment and problems, the causes of the famine that did take place, and the measures taken to alleviate it. They can access valuable material from Bob Avakian in "Radically Different Systems: Radically Different Outlooks and Objectives, Radically Different Results," (section of the new interview, WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism), from the Great Leap Forward page on the Set the Record Straight website (www.thisiscommunism.org), and from the YouTube, "Raymond Lotta Takes on Lies about Mao's Great Leap Forward."
There are four key points to keep in mind:
1) The Great Leap Forward was aimed at creating a sustainable agriculture, bringing masses of peasants into the running of administrative and political affairs, bringing women out of the household and into the swirl of the battle to create a new society, and overcoming unequal development between the cities and countryside. The commune system that was one of the great innovations of the Great Leap Forward created new forms of social cooperation. This was not "slavery," as Yang Jisheng asserts, but a leap in social organization.
2) The famine that struck China in 1959-60 was principally the result of unprecedented droughts and flooding. There were other factors, including the sudden withdrawal of aid and technical support by the Soviet Union to punish China for challenging and breaking with the Soviet economic and political model; policy mistakes made by the revolutionary leadership; intense social and political struggles; temporary dislocations in the planning system; and China's encirclement by Western imperialism. This was not "Mao's great famine" but a famine of complex, intermeshing causes.
3) Yang Jisheng's claim that 36 million people died as a result of the Great Leap Forward is just that...a claim. It is based on sensationalistic and politically motivated estimates, unreliable demographic and census data, archival materials of questionable quality, and dubious statistical projections. Such wildly exaggerated mortality numbers are highly contested by demographers and other scholars.
4) Mao and the revolutionary leadership took measures to cope with food crisis and famine. These included emergency deliveries of grain, changing the structure of the communes so that they could better deal with economic matters, putting more emphasis on agricultural production, and scaling back exports. China's historic food problem was overcome by 1970. China's socialist revolution saved millions of lives, as evidenced in the doubling of life expectancy between 1949 and 1976.
To learn more about socialism in the Soviet Union (1917-1956) and in China (1949-1976), readers should go to the Set the Record Straight website, www.thisiscommunism.org.
Revolution #285 November 18, 2012
Here are 3 versions of Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) holiday gift cards:
These color files are designed to print two cards on each 8.5x11 sheet. When printing, set your printer to "flip on the short side," to make the printed text inside and outside the card be in the same direction.